Submitted by Nicole Digilio
The Welcome to America Project’s Adopt-a-Family event this past weekend was the second time I’ve volunteered for this amazing organization. Based on my past experience, purchasing Christmas gifts usually makes my head spin. Finding the perfect gift for the people you love is a fun way to show them you care, but running around through shopping malls with endless holiday music playing is the last place you want to spend your afternoon. This year, I was grateful to be given the opportunity by The Welcome to America Project to really understand the spirit of the season.
Before walking through the front door, I was excited about giving all these presents to a family in need. But what I didn’t know was that our roles were soon to be reversed. Within the first ten minutes I realized meeting such kind-hearted strangers was greater than any tangible gift I have ever received. The Iraqi family of five was shy at first but then opened up to laughter and discussion.
After serving us traditional Iraqi tea and baked goods, the family told us they have only been in America for three months. Their Catholic faith forced them to flee their home country of Iraq and into Syria. This is where they resided in a refugee camp for the past six years. The youngest daughter, Amira,* is seventeen years old just like me. I thought about how different her life has been from mine. The family told us how they plan to take English classes next month and their daughters explained their interest in becoming pharmacists. I could relate to their fear of going to college and joining the real world this year. I could also surely relate to their newfound love of the delicious In-n-Out burger.
We hope to keep in touch with this inspirational family and watch them grow and succeed. They are hardworking people who came here with just the clothes on their backs and are making due with whatever life throws at them. I am glad I got the opportunity to finally understand what the holidays are about and to welcome these refugees to America!
View pictures of this event on our Facebook page.
*Name has been changed to protect family’s identity.