By Ukee Washington

MAGNOLIA, N.J. (CBS) — A church in Camden County made it a mission to teach the youngest in the community about different cultures.

On a sunny summer morning, Cheryl Chinn is reading a traditional Chinese story about a boy with a very long name.

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“Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo is at the bottom of the well,” Chinn said.

And she is engaging children about their own names.

This is Diversity Story Time, a project of the Soul Cafe church in Magnolia.

The idea came from Lizette Meléndez.

“One of the beauties of being in the U.S. is we are diverse, and why not celebrate it? And why not celebrate it in a very easy way, which is beautiful children’s stories,” Meléndez said.

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Meléndez arranged for diverse storytellers to come every week to read to children. Chinn, who is Chinese American, said it’s invaluable for children, including her own, to find out about other cultures.

“Why do they do things like that? Why do they speak a different language? Why do we do things like this?” Chinn said.

The Soul Cafe Prayer Garden serves as an outdoor classroom, and community space.

“It’s so beautiful to see people in the community can come here and find their center, find God here in a little prayer garden,” Chinn said.

Diversity Story Time has wrapped up for the summer, but the bonds it created are living on.

Soul Cafe continues to operate other ministries, including a food pantry and a free library.

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“If anything, the pandemic has taught me community is important not just during the pandemic but let’s continue this,” Meléndez said.

Ukee Washington