Driving around Bellevue and seeing the various restaurants, shops and people that represent different cultures from around the world, it is obvious that Bellevue is a diverse city.
According to the 2010 Census, , and more than .
So, it made complete sense to Estrella Chan to create a group for people from different cultures to come together and share their personal experiences, stories and traditions.
“I think there’s a need to find a connection,” Chan said.
Chan came to the United States more than 25 years ago. She was born in Hong Kong, but spent a large part of her life in Panama before moving to the United States.
Chan believes that a lot of immigrants, especially women, may feel isolated or homebound. She created the group so that attendees could feel “that there are other people who care that [they] exist.”
The International Gathering group meets on the first Friday of every month at the , another hub for different cultures and people.
Chan created the group in October 2011. The number of attendees at every meeting varies. At the last meeting, held on July 6, three people attended, including Chan.
During every meeting, Chan prepares a different topic for the group to discuss. In July, Chan and the other attendees talked about travel customs and in June, they discussed how to act when you’re invited to someone’s house.
“We may have a topic, but we go everywhere, and I love it,” said Chan.
Yana Pearson is new to the group and attended her first meeting on July 6. Her father is Russian and her mother is Greek, and she spent her childhood between both countries. She now lives in Seattle and volunteers as an English instructor with Talk Time.
“I like when people leave their shells and meet other people,” said Pearson.
She encourages people to learn English and adapt to their new environments. She said that “it’s almost depressing” for new immigrants, because they get “homesick all the time.”
A group like the International Gathering provides a nice change of pace.
Varduhi Tovmasyan, on the other hand, frequently attends the International Gatherings. Recently emigrated from Armenia, Tovmasyan is still learning English.
Tovmasyan likes coming to the meetings because the group welcomes “very different people, [and] very different cultures,” she said. No one judges.
The next International Gathering will be held on Aug. 3 at the Crossroads Bellevue shopping center.