This past week has been such an incredible journey, and we have had the amazing opportunity to meet so many courageous people along the way. Before I came on this trip, I had a basic knowledge of refugees and genocide, but after speaking with the families we’ve encountered during this week, I can now say that my education of those subjects has skyrocketed.
I was nervous to meet all of these families at first because I didn’t know what to expect. I remember feeling especially jittery the very first day we went to Catholic Charities to be introduced to our first set of families. I can recall standing outside the first apartment, my heart beating frighteningly fast, my palms starting to glisten with sweat. We were standing in a line, all holding household items in our hands that we had just purchased from the dollar store. I was at the front of the line, unsure of what lay on the other side of the door. I thought my nerves might lighten after we had visited a few houses, but I always had a knot in my throat every time we went to go meet a new family.
I loved that every family had something different to offer, and every individual went through their own personal struggles. The language barriers made it tough at times to communicate, but we were still able to ask and get answers to a majority of our questions. I am extremely grateful for the Arabic and Spanish translators that helped us break the barrier. They were major components in allowing us to communicate with the refugees.
The Lost Boys of Sudan were a truly inspiring bunch of young men. They had faced so many difficulties in their life, yet they had the most positive and happy attitude I had ever seen. Despite all the hardships they faced, they still managed to turn their life around with hard work and dedication. Much of that hard work paid off and many of them came out on top with degrees ranging from psychology to social work to nursing. And through it all, they still want to go back to South Sudan and help people there. I think that is the most powerful thing someone can do. Their strong desire to return to a place where they once fled from the threat of death is truly heartwarming.
Some highs of the week would definitely be having the opportunity to meet all the refugee families and hear all of their amazing, unforgettable stories. I loved listening to them talk about how much they love America and how much they appreciate the opportunity to come here and start their new lives. Also, being able to spend time with the Lost Boys and really getting to know them and hang out with them on a personal level was truly rewarding. I was so lucky to go on this trip with the awesome students in my class. We all became so close and I can honestly say that this experience wouldn’t have been the same without them.
Some lows of the week were listening to the heartbreaking things that the families had to go through in the camps. For example, the family from the DR Congo, who were in the camps for 8 years were only given enough food to survive. And the Somalian mother who had a three-year-old daughter said that nighttime was the scariest because the Kenyan rebels would shoot at anything they saw moving in the darkness outside, even if you were just getting water from the pump. Something that was also a huge low for me was feeling guilty when the Libyan sisters talked about how much they loved school, and their aspirations to become doctors. It made me feel guilty because I realized how much I took going to school for granted. It is expected of us that we have to go to school, but having the opportunity to learn, was a luxury for most of these families.
Overall this trip has taught me to cherish all the opportunities that were just handed to me, things that I didn’t earn through hard work. We met real people who had suffered through horrific times and we were given the honor of talking to them. I left the houses feeling incredibly blessed. Although talking to these families was very emotionally draining, it was also immensely rewarding. After witnessing these experiences in real life they can come to a place like America where they don’t have to worry about people coming after them. My heart goes out to these families and the families still stuck in the refugee camps. I hope the efforts of Catholic Charities, the Lost Boys of Sudan, and the United States Government can change the lives of many many more people and bring them to America for a life of safety and security.