We are proud to bring to the you curator & creator of the amazing resource for parents How to Raise Confident, Multicultural Children and author of the amazing book Where Am I From? With stunning, one of a kind graffiti art, this labor of love that took two years to bring to life will help your child build their identity from the ground up. Elisavet Arkolaki has done a beautiful job connecting worlds by getting to the roots of the identity of every child.
Please meet our friend and super author Elisavet Arkolenki.
- Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I am passionate about books, travel and inspired by global learning. I raise my own children in between countries, cultures, and languages, and I write to build cultural understanding and sensitivity in young children while they are still eager to learn.
I am originally from Greece, my husband from Norway, our first kid was born in Malta and our second in Norway. Fun fact when it comes to appearances is that we all look similar so you wouldn’t have guessed our cultural and linguistic melange (all four of us have red hair!) but we couldn’t be more different.
I speak Greek with my kids, my husband Norwegian, and as a common family language, we speak English. I come from a southern European culture where people tend to be loud and very expressive of their emotions, and my husband comes from Northern Europe where people tend to be more quiet and reserved. My schooling was in Greek, I studied in French for my Bachelor and I completed my Masters in English. I love languages and I am currently learning Norwegian.
- Which countries/cities have you lived in in your lifetime? Which is your favorite?
I was born and raised in Athens, Greece, and I used to spend the weekends and the whole summer breaks in the countryside. My fondest childhood memories are those of the school summer breaks; the warm sun, the Mediterranean sea, a bunch of kids playing out in a dirt road from sunrise till late at night. As an adult, I’ve lived in France, Spain, Malta, Thailand, and Norway, and I’ve traveled a lot.
Greece has been the place where my very essence of being was formed. In France, I discovered a very different kind of freedom; the freedom of existing outside the norms and peer pressure of one’s home culture. I was there that I was given for the first time the opportunity to find out who I truly was, once I had laid off all the cultural layers.
Then we have Malta, a place which I also consider as my home country. I lived there for about a decade, and this is where I met the love of my life. In Malta I met some of the most inspiring individuals, made close friends from around the world, I advanced at a personal and professional level, I got married, our first kid was born. It comes as no surprise that my blog is www.maltamum.com.
Spain was a break in between two moves to Malta, and where my partner and I experienced the freedom of working home-based for the first time back at the end of 2008. Since our boy was born (2013), we’ve been living in Thailand during the European winters. Norway is my husband’s country of origin, our second kid was born here, and we have family living nearby. We plan to live in Norway for the foreseeable future.
- What brought you to write the children’s book ‘Where am I from?’ and curate the guide ‘How to Raise Confident Multicultural Children’?
I feel that the reality of being multilingual and multicultural in societies where this is not considered as the ‘norm’, it may be interpreted in a less favorable way by our children, and they need our guidance to build a strong sense of self. Identity is very closely knitted with culture and when the cultures are so blended and the background so fluid, our children need our help to invent a positive identity of their own; an identity that is not defined by one sole culture.
Children don’t really start to ponder over identity issues until later in life but the roots of many of these are to be found in early childhood. I believe that my books help to create a foundation of normalcy and acceptance for our multicultural children during their early years.
Moreover, if we are to guide our children properly in this journey, we also need guidance ourselves. There is so much misinformation out there so I felt the need to do proper research, bring on the spotlight experts in related fields who really know what they’re talking about, and share it with our global community.
- What current cultural trend disturbs you the most? How do you think we can work towards the betterment of it?
I am worried about the divisional climate that is on the rise, the tendency of separating people in between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Unfortunately this seems to be the trend in many countries around the world and this is why I felt compelled to write the chapter ‘The debate over multiculturalism and what we can learn from the Canadian model’ which you can read in the guide.
Tamara Yousry noted in her own chapter titled ‘Crossing the Deep Cultural Divide’ that “monocultural groups and teams are becoming a thing of the past. n today’s contemporary, globalized world, multicultural groups are the norm.”
People will keep on crossing borders, falling in love, having children, and we need to learn how to coexist with each other in a respectful and caring manner. Instead of looking at countries where integration is failing us and where the blame for that is put on multiculturalism, we can look up to others who are succeeding and learn from them.
- What is one personal challenge you have overcome growing up?
In 2007 I lost someone very dear to me. At about the same time I lost my voice and had various diagnoses and symptoms in that body area but no doctor could find the source of it all. This lasted for about a year, that is till one doctor saw me more holistically, and talked about psychological trauma.
I discovered that the source of my symptoms was grief, and my incapability at the time to process negative emotions. After this experience, I learned that allowing myself to be in touch with emotions that can cause me pain and discomfort, acknowledging them, expressing them, and working through them, is not weakness but strength, and it’s a fundamental health care process.
- Share with us one parenting hack that has made your children’s life easy.
Together with my husband, we instilled an interest in books, words and storytelling to our children from very early on. When the kids were too young or simply uninterested to follow a whole book story, we would just point at the images and talk about them.
All that mattered at the time was simply to open that book and create an enjoyable experience, even if that lasted just 1′. Our son started primary school this year, eager to learn how to read and write (they start at 6 in Norway), cause he now had the opportunity to decode by himself the system that makes up all these great stories he had been listening to. When we support literacy even before our child starts to read, the foundation is set for later.
- What projects are you working on next?
I’ll be traveling to Malta for a book tour at the end of February, and I have one more children’s book coming out this year by the same publisher (Faraxa Publishing).
- What is one piece of advice you would give to children?
Never give up when you’re really passionate about something, and do give up when you realize that something you thought you loved does no longer fulfill you.
- Tell us three things that are on your bucket list?
I would like to find more time for reading and writing and to be more involved with activities that promote literacy and multilingualism in our local community.
- What 3 books would you say changed your life?
It’s hard to pin point 3 books. Books and words, in general, shaped my life. As a kid, I loved everything by Roald Dahl (The Witches, Matilda and The GFG in particular), Hans Hans Christian Andersen, and I absolutely adored the Pollyanna series by Eleanor H. Porter. Recently, I got to read an exceptional book that touched me deeply; ‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi.
- Do you have any freebies for our readers?
Yes, you can download the guide ‘How to Raise Confident Multicultural Children’ by subscribing to my newsletter http://eepurl.com/dvnij9.
Elisavet Arkolaki is an amazing person and I hope you get to meet more world changers from around the world, here !