Catholic Charities

Yesterday was our last day working with Catholic Charities. The last two days have been eye opening to say the least. We met refugees from all over and each family taught us something new. Today we met three new refugee families and each had a different story to tell.
The first family we met with was two girls from Libya. They girls told us that their parents were from Sudan, but they were born in Libya. The girls grew up in Libya and when the fighting started about a year and a half ago the fled to a refugee camp in Egypt. While in Libya they had a good life. The girls went to school and did not live in fear. When the fighting started their life became difficult.
In the camp the girls said they constantly were in fear that someone would come to their house and hurt them. The girls were bored every day because they could not leave their house and did not go to school. When I heard this I realized how much I take school for granted. I have the privilege of having something to do every day and learn something new every. Even when I was in high school having a place to go everyday was much better than having nothing to do every day and living in fear.
When the girls found out they were coming to America they were so happy. They said they cheered and were so excited to come here and start a new life. Both of the girls wanted to go to university and become doctors. Hearing this was amazing, it made me so happy to hear that these girls who at one point did not have the opportunity for schooling in the camps, wanted to become doctors so they could help those that do not have health care.
When the refugees come to America and take grasp at every opportunity it makes me so happy. I love hearing about all the dreams that the refugees have. I love how optimist these people can be even thought they had nothing and didn’t even know if they would make it through the next day.
The next family we visited was a family from Somalia. They family consisted of a mother and her three year old child. The child was born in the refugee camp and the mother had fled from Somalia in 1992. She did not remember anything from Somalia and only remembered growing up in the refugee camps. We learned that this woman was one of ten and that she was told that the rest of her sibling and her mother would be coming to Phoenix to join her.
After hearing this, my first thought that it was so wonderful that her whole family would be coming to join her in America, but as we discussed it later that this may not be the case. For the United States to bring 11 more people to the same city would be a very large task and something that does not happen often. What made me sad was that the woman was waiting for her family to get here to start her life in America. She was not attending classes to learn English because it was difficult to bring her daughter with her. She was also not very optimistic about the job opportunities that she would be offered. It broke my heart to hear this because all the other refugees we had spoken with were so optimistic and taking advantage of all the opportunities that America had offered them.
After lunch we visited a Cuban family. This was one of the best and most nerve racking experiences I had so far on the trip. I was asked by Catholic Charities to help translate for the family. This would be my first time translating and I have not been exposed to Spanish a year. I was really nervous that my abilities would not be sufficient enough for the message to be translated. Luckily, Catholic Charities found someone who was up for the job and I would just be a backup translator.
While talking with the families I was surprised by how much I did understand and by how much I could translate back to the group. It was an amazing feeling knowing that all the work I had put into learning the language had paid off and I would be able to use my knowledge of the language in real world experiences.
Hearing the stories from the Cuban family were very different from all the other stories we had heard so far. We learned that the Cubans left their country by choice and were seeking asylum. The Cubans traveled through nine countries to get to the United States and in each country they went through hell. They described their experience getting to the United States as a horror movie. They had to climb mountains, and deal with corrupt police officers, they were constantly scared and had nothing.
The Cubans also described their lives in Cuba and how they had to live on $10 a month. They couldn’t buy meat unless they got it on the black market, and they had a book that told them what small amount of food they could buy each day. They loved the United States and always wanted to come and build a new life here. They had many hopes and dreams and were in my opinion the most optimistic family we had met. At the end of the day the Cubans gave us Cuban coffee and gave us hugs and kisses.
All in all the experiences we had made me think more about the privileges I have and take for granted. It also made me so happy that these people are in the United States and have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. I can’t wait to get back home and share their stories.
Until next time
Meghan =)

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