10 Students. 1 Professor. 7 Days. 2 Agencies.
1 Amazing week in Phoenix, AZ.
A truly unforgettable week made even more incredible with the individuals and agencies we had the opportunity to interact with. Catholic Charities was one organization we had the pleasure of serving. A nonprofit who are known for their work within the refugee resettlement sphere. However, besides finding homes for the refugee families who arrive to Phoenix, they also offer counseling, job assistance, and work with other agencies around the local area. For example,they work with The Welcome to America Project, an organization that focus on getting and sorting donations within a warehouse so then they are able to give things to newly arrived families like furniture, toiletries, clothes, books, etc. Both organizations do so much for their community and being able to work with both of them was enriching. It allowed us to gain different perspectives and see how complex the social issue really is. Refugee Resettlement isn’t just about resettling them in a home, but it is so much more. It is taking the time to help them find a job, teach them about the american culture and what it means to work here, and overall helping them feel comfortable and safe in a new place.
With Catholic Charities, specially, we had the opportunity to meet families and bring them things they needed such as a basket of toiletries or a baby stroller. As we walked through their front doors with the gifts, you could see the awe in their eyes and the appreciation in their faces. Truly a beautiful moment where language did not matter. Things that a few weeks ago they did not think they would ever be able to get.
Okay, so now that you got to hear a little bit about what we did and who were the agencies we worked with. Let’s move on to that ever so deep 7 letter question.
Yes, we spent a week listening to the stories of these incredibly resilient individuals, but what do we do with that? What are we supposed to do with that information? Or any information/experience you have that impacts the way you start to look at the world?
A wise professor (aka Dr. Aaron Noland) once told my class to leave room. The way you all love each other in this class, you can love other people and should leave space to do that. Leave space to include others so that they are able to share in your experiences as well because if all we do is exclude then the stories and experiences die here.
So, we share.
We share with everyone who is willing to listen to the things we have learned and the things that have impacted us, because when others see the raw emotions and passion about what you are saying that is when things start to change. That is when others become disturbed and this is what we should aim for. By having others feel disturbed that means you are saying something that goes against their form of thinking and is causing them to question themselves. From this, we grow and learn what we really believe to be true. Here is where we learn what our values are and how those form paradigms that ultimately construct the world in which we we live in. Sharing our experiences is such a powerful thing to do because it not only allows us to verbally as well as outwardly reflect on our experiences and how they made us feel but, it also provides a window for others to view a different perspective and to hear a different “side of the story” thus starting to change or shift the perspective of that individual.
So, since you are already here and have read this far, here is a story of one of the refugee families we had the pleasure of meeting.
We primarily spoke to the father of the family. Since the day he was born he has been targeted because of the religion he and his family believe as well as practice. He has never known a life without war and harassment towards his race. At the age of 5 he saw his father be tied up and taken away because he was known as a leader within their community. As he grew up, he would become a professor of the sciences. He would have 5 daughters and push them to do their best in their studies because he knew the value of getting a good education and how with a good education all these wars and crimes could stop. He sees education as the key to having the ability to understand and accept others. However, due to his religion, he would get fired from the school he was teaching at and then his daughter would be expelled. Both being completely targeted because of their religion and not given the same opportunity as everyone else. From then on, the violence would only get worse, with the mosque that they usually attend being blown up. He would then proceed to start running. Running away from the violence and injustice and running towards what would hopefully provide his daughters with a better future. He misses his people terribly and doesn’t know when he will be able to return but prays that his youngest daughter will grow up to tell her friends that her dad made the right choice by bringing them here. He never wished to leave his country but was forced to.
Could you imagine a life like that?
Refugees are humans. They have passions like you and me. They have aspirations for their kids to have a better future than them. Just like we are a family member, a friend, and important to people in this world so are they.