Community. That is the word that comes to mind when reflecting on my first experience with The Welcome to America Project over two years ago. I was not expecting to be so impacted by simply bringing household items to a Rwandan refugee family. We did not even bring much – some furniture, pictures, and dishes but the joy that was expressed on their faces showed what a blessing those items were to them. This is because their family came to the United States with almost nothing. They had each other and that was it.
I soon found out their apartment complex was also home to many other Rwandan families. That explained why this family of five had an additional twenty people in their apartment. These neighbors had instantly become family. Then it hit me – this was what true community looks like.
Here were refugees, thousands of miles from their familiar home and yet they had already found a new “home” because they had made connections with fellow Rwandans. This small community isn’t unique in its kind; there are Guatemalan communities, Indian communities, Somali communities and others all across this country. I realized that as human beings, we long to feel as though we belong, to feel a connection to people or places.
What I witnessed that day was an interaction between two cultures – my own typical American suburbia and the Rwandan way of life. The result was something special that I will never forget. It is these types of interactions between different cultures that break down the barriers between us. And when global citizens from different communities come together, we create a global community.
I knew very little about refugees prior to this experience, but I now understand what a beautiful piece they are in the puzzle of the United States.