It’s been a year since WES’ Refugee Resettlement Team (RRT) welcomed a family from Afghanistan. To celebrate the completion of the formal six-month mentoring commitment in February, the family and team members gathered for a tasty dinner at a favorite Afghan restaurant. For some, it was an opportunity to say goodbye and wish them well, and for others, it marked a milestone in the resettlement process they would continue to share. The team discovered that adjusting to life in a very different culture, and learning to speak and understand the language, is a process that takes years rather than months, and one where some emotional support from continuing friendships is much appreciated.
Three dedicated WES members still visit the mom weekly to help her learn English, use a calendar, tell time, make change, and other essential skills. She is always a gracious host, offering snacks and beverages and recently expressed her gratitude by inviting her tutors for a fabulous lunch feast. One more English coach is needed for August and occasional short periods to spell others, so please see contact info below if you are interested. She is an earnest student and uses a cell phone to record some sessions so she can practice alone, but what she really needs is a laptop computer. A donation of a used model would allow her to work on Rosetta Stone on her own, which would greatly accelerate her progress. An encouraging sign that mom is adjusting well is that she has recently started an exercise routine with friends from the neighborhood, walking in the mornings and working out in the local Fitness Center.
These regular tutor visits also allow for a general check in to see what sort of issues the family faces and how they are managing. For a while, their apartment seemed to be plagued with bed bugs and a few mice, but preparation for post Ramadan feasting generated building-wide cleaning, evidenced by many colorful rugs hung over balconies to dry, and with a well-timed extermination effort by the landlord, the pests are now gone, much to everyone’s relief.
At one home visit, the parents asked if it would be possible to get tutoring help for their sons. Two additional WES members stepped up to fill this need and have been preparing lessons and working individually with each boy nearly every week for several months. Although their school initially separated them as immigrants, they have since been mainstreamed and both boys have advanced to their next grade level this year. Their school suggested that reading with the boys would help with their English, and it is now time for a new cadre of tutors. Continuing to coach them over the summer months is crucial to maintaining what they have learned and an opportunity to get them off to a good start this fall. Current tutors can provide more information for those who are interested in starting this rewarding activity.
Balancing work with play, the boys kicked off their summer with a week at a school-sponsored soccer camp. It was clearly a big hit, as the boys still like to wear their soccer uniforms! An invitation to join a WES family for a sporting event, hiking, the National Zoo, or in the heat of the summer, possibly the Air & Space Museum, would be especially welcoming, and an opportunity to introduce them to fun things to do in this area.
The family’s journey to becoming settled and self-sufficient seemed to be going smoothly up until mid-May. For five months the dad drove for Lyft, maximizing peak hours, and earning enough to fully support his family without food stamps or other public assistance. He paid off his car loan and began repaying the cost of his family’s flight to the U.S. and even managed to send some money home. Unfortunately, this progress came to an unavoidable pause, when he found, despite wearing a brace, that he could no longer avoid surgery on his damaged knee. On May 14, a surgeon repaired several torn ligaments. During his recovery, friends came to visit, and neighbors assisted with rides for groceries and doctor appointments. Of course, he has been unable to drive for the past two months while his knee heals and therefore lost the Lyft fares that were his only source of income. Through generous contributions to the WES’ RRT fund and the Leaders Caring Fund, the WES community was able to provide financial assistance during this setback. He is taking his doctor’s orders seriously, doing his PT exercises and taking his medication, but is not yet able to return to work. Figuring out how to generate income for the family is now their top priority.
Inspiration appeared in a recently aired documentary about a Syrian refugee family’s resettlement near Baltimore called “This is Home: A Refugee Story.” In it, a congregation sold tickets to a dinner prepared by the family’s mom to raise money for the family. It was so successful, they had to turn people away at the door and a special Syrian dinner has become an annual event. Given what a fabulous cook this Afghan mom is, and how much she would like to give back to the community, the RRT is moving ahead with plans for an Afghan Dinner fundraiser in September. While all the culinary artistry will be authentically Afghan, there are tasks members and friends can do to support this event such as: planning, shopping, publicity, ticket sales, waiting tables, hall preparation and clean up, and of course donations would be very much appreciated as well. For a really delicious community event, reserve this date on your calendar.
If you are interested in helping the family any of the ways mentioned above:
- tutoring mom or the boys
- donating a laptop or tablet
- sharing a recreational outing
- assisting with the dinner fundraiser
- making a donation for the family
please contact Sue Smith at email@example.com. Your care and service will be much appreciated.