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Rural Voters From Western Mass. And Appalachia Plan Cultural Exchange

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Two groups of rural voters from Appalachia and Western Massachusetts -- regions that voted very differently in the last election -- are meeting this weekend to seek common ground.

Following months of planning by community leaders, 11 residents of Letcher county, Kentucky, are staying with host families in Leverett, Massachusetts, for three days of cross-cultural conversation and activities.

While the Leverett participants are mostly liberal, the Kentucky group includes several Trump supporters, according to their organizer Ben Fink from the Kentucky nonprofit Appalshop. But he said the event will be more relationship-building than political debate. 

"I think there will certainly be discussions. And they'll certainly be some tension that comes with disagreement," Fink said. "But I don't anticipate much evangelism, on either side."

Fink said the travelers -- ranging from artists to business owners, in their teens up to their 60s -- were chosen in part for their curiosity and open-mindedness, while also being "steadfast in who you are and what you believe and what matters to you, and so in a situation of tension and disagreement, you'll also hold your ground."

Next spring, as part two of the exchange, the Leverett residents plan to visit Kentucky.

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Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter since for New England Public Radio since 1998. Her pieces have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, and the Erikson Prize for Mental Health Reporting for her body of work on mental illness.

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