We are converging upon the special time of year when many Americans look forward to being “home for the holidays.” This is a perfect time to reflect upon the meaning of home. The volunteers who dedicate their time, talent, and love to the Welcome to America Project always seek to help our new refugee neighbors feel at home in their new country by providing furniture, other basic necessities, and a warm welcome. What does home mean to you?
Five days before Thanksgiving, a group of approximately 13 volunteers came together to help furnish the homes of one Afghani and two Iraqi families. Experience the delivery by viewing the below photos capturing the day.
The volunteers assembled at the storage units in Tempe early Saturday morning. It was chilly before Arizona’s fall sun warmed up the air. We were joined by a number of volunteers from St. Patrick’s Social Justice and Outreach Ministry.
The first home delivery was to a young man who is of Afghan descent but was born and raised in India. He has been in Arizona for one month. Although he arrived here on his own, his father, mother and younger brother are in the process of coming to join him. Although they tried to seek Indian citizenship, the Indian government would not grant it to them. Without Indian citizenship, the family would have faced many struggles and forever would have been considered outsiders. The father applied to the Human Rights Commission for refugee status, which was granted, enabling him to come to the United States. The process took five years. The young man found his first two weeks in Arizona to be very tough. He was very lonely. However, he has visited the local library, obtained a library card and has taken out several books. Meeting a neighbor who was also from Afghanistan, eased the young man’s transition in Arizona. Now he is learning his way around his new home in hopes of helping ease his family’s transition once they arrive.
The next family we visited was from Iraq. The family consists of the father (41), mother (40), son (12) and daughter (9). The daughter is attending school in Arizona. The son has not been cleared to attend school yet, so he is still spending his days at home. The family moved from Iraq to Syria in 2006 due to the war in Iraq. They still have family in Iraq, but no other family members live in Arizona. The father was a mechanical engineer in Iraq. The mother worked in a bank. In Syria, however, they were unable to work. The children did attend school in Syria. This family’s apartment is quite bare. Their only lighting is in the kitchen/dining area.
The third family we visited is from Iraq. This family of four consists of the father (35), mother (35), and two sons (ages 5 and 2). The family has been in Arizona for only six weeks. In Iraq, the father was a painter; however, after the war began, the family felt unsafe and decided to leave for Syria in 2005. In Syria he was able to obtain work as a restaurant supervisor. He hopes to find work in Arizona in the restaurant business. The family is concerned about their five-year-old son’s speech issue and would like help with this issue. The mother hopes that their future in the United States will bring her family a better life
Comfort: a condition of feeling pleasure and ease.
This is something all humans seek. However, I have recently discovered that when we glorify comfort, it can lead to an apathetic and static lifestyle. Seeking comfort above all else separates us from reality and keeps us from venturing outside ourselves to gain perspective.
Refugees are people whose lives are far from comfortable. They have endured the pain of losing family members. They have traveled hundreds of miles to a foreign land not knowing a single soul. They have faced persecution and been forced to leave their homes. Yet through all of this, the refugees I have met exhibit immense joy and strength. Their suffering has led to personal growth, which can only be brought upon by difficulties.
So let’s get uncomfortable.
The notion is not to be uncomfortable merely for the sake of being uncomfortable, but for a greater cause. It could be for freedom, for a dream, for family, or for faith. Whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to step outside of ease and experience life.
I will end with a simple yet inspiring quote by author Isabel Allende. “Comfort is overrated. There is nothing wrong with a little pain.”