David C. Pollock Scholar Jessi Vance is founder of the TCK space, Kaleidoscope. She talks about how faith is an important part of the TCK conversation and the incredible opportunity TCKs have to be “bridge builders in a world determined to build walls.”
How did you hear about FIGT and what inspired you to apply for the Scholarship?
I’ve been following along FIGT and dreaming of attending a conference for years now! I think Marilyn Gardner was the first person who encouraged me to pursue the scholarship to be able to attend. I applied last year and didn’t get it, so it was very exciting to apply for a second time and get the “yes!”
To whoever else is hoping to get involved but got a “no” this year, remember that trying again is worth it! This is a dream five years in the making and there were multiple times along the way that I just thought, “oh well, the FIGT conference isn’t for me,” but here we are and I couldn’t be more grateful.
What are your areas of interest?
I’m a third culture kid (TCK) who grew up in Central Asia, so TCKs are always going to be my first love. I think the cultural complexities are so beautiful and vibrant and a lot of the time we talk too much about the challenges and not enough about the gifts.
About 6 years ago I started an organization called Kaleidoscope (www.kldscp.org) to create spaces where TCKs can connect and learn from each other. We’ve partnered with many faith-based organizations over the years, and I’ve always wrestled with the question of how to separate a young person’s story and experiences and personal values from strong faith traditions and expectations.
As an organization that’s built on creating safe spaces, how do we welcome the questions and conversations of TCKs with a variety of personal beliefs, family faith traditions, and religious host cultures?
How did you get into this field? Why are you passionate about it/why is it important to you?
I grew up in such a fascinating mix of cultures! Not only was I part of a conservative Christian missionary community, my upbringing, worldview, and sense of self were also influenced by devout Muslim neighbors and fiercely independent, atheist Russian friends.
Faith is such an interesting and important part of a TCK’s world because it can be one of those anchor points that don't change with every transition. In that way it is just as (maybe even MORE) important to engage TCKs in conversations around faith than our single-culture, single-religion peers.
As I’ve gone through my own deconstruction and reconstruction of faith, it’s been eye-opening to realize how much of a role these cultures still play in my adult life. I realized that whatever faith journey other TCKs are on, they will have similar influences, both clarifying and challenging.
I also have a tendency to want to share what I’m walking through. I’m not close to having any kind of answers or ‘solutions’ but I’m confident that including personal and communal faith in the TCK conversation is vital to individual identity and, not to be overly dramatic, perhaps to global peace as well.
What are some key messages you wanted to share at FIGT2020?
The biggest take-home message is, as Tayo Rockson says, “use your difference to make a difference.” In the current political, religious, and global climate, humans are looking for more and more ways to alienate one another and “circle the wagons” with like-minded, lookalike individuals.
TCKs have an incredible opportunity to be bridge builders in a world determined to build walls.
For me, I identify as Christian, but I have deep respect and love for Muslim people and religion. That was my experience. Maybe yours is the other way around!
Either way we have the opportunity, and maybe the responsibility, to be voices that create connections around topics that often lead to division.
What’s next for you?
I’ve just moved out of New York City to a farm in a small town in Massachusetts. So personally, what’s next looks like a lot of walks on the beach, enjoying home-grown egg omelettes and more quiet and fresh air than I’m used to.
Kaleidoscope is now taking the training and curriculum that we’ve facilitated at in-person TCK events over the last six years and creating easily accessible products for culturally complex families and leaders anywhere in the world (including a video series, “Faith and your TCK”), so that’s a whole bunch of “new,” too.
It’s never boring around here, but if there’s one thing being an adaptable, globe-trotting kid taught me, it’s that those are the best moments in life.
Can you share a random piece of info about yourself, please?
I love to read. Preferably at an outdoor table of a little French cafe, but more often on an airplane or in between Zoom meetings. In a profession that keeps me connected to screens more than I’d prefer, it’s so nice to decompress with a good book!
As I’ve reread some of my childhood favorites I realized how many of them featured storylines with TCK themes. Even before I knew what a TCK was I could resonate with these culturally complex literary characters!
Come connect with me on Instagram @jessi_rue, I’d love to hear what you’re currently reading. Of course follow along with Kaleidoscope @kldscp, too!
ALSO: Read Jessi's bio and learn about the other 2020 Scholars and watch Jessi talk about the role of faith in a TCK's life (FIGT Members can log in to the website to access the video).
FIGT focused on the theme “TCKs” for March 2020. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publicly available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).