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Cumberland County Looks For Ways To Promote Diversity

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY — Twenty-nine different ethnic cultures have a significant presence in Fayetteville. Community leaders say the multicultural society brings benefits as well as new challenges.

Belinda Martin is a North Carolina resident, but you would never know that from her accent. She is originally from South Africa, but now calls Fayetteville home.

"It's small, cozy, and the people are great and diverse," Martin says. "It's just a wonderful place to raise children."

Cumberland County is the 12th most-diversified county in the country, largely due to the military.

"We have an opportunity to learn how people do things in other parts of the world and incorporate that learning into improving our quality of life," says Theo McClammy, Human Relations Director.

Fayetteville's annual folk festival is one way for residents to learn more about their neighbors, but the challenges are great. According to a recent survey, some residents do not feel a sense of community where they live.

The city is trying to address the issue and others by forming study circles of people with different backgrounds.

"We don't want to have a black or white perspective on education or Hispanic perspective about transportation issues," McClammy says. "That's what we will have if we don't come together."

Cecille Guerrero is from the Philippines and is very happy living here. She says diversity is one reason why her family will stay in Fayetteville after her husband retires from the Army.

"It tells you how people can get along with each other very well and that's good," Guerrero says.

Another way the city is trying to create cultural awareness is by sponsoring monthly lunchtime events that highlight international flavor.