Refugee Family Mentoring
Family Mentoring — Our Initial Visit
Thanks to the generosity of the parish and with guidance and resources provided by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a group of parishioners from St. Ignatius has the unique opportunity to mentor a new family of Americans: mother, father, four sons and three daughters who have arrived as refugees from Afghanistan. With a mix of nervousness, excitement and purposeful determination we made our way to East Baltimore and found the most delightful family living in the shadows of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
At our first meeting, the mother and her daughters welcomed us warmly into their row home while an IRC mentoring coordinator led us through introductions and reiterated our role with the family. Some of the children shared with us their dreams for the future: to become a doctor, an artist, an engineer, a businessman and a businesswoman. Others were a bit too timid to express themselves. The 3-year-old simply was not sure what he wants to be yet!
While we were able to converse with some of the younger children that have a strong command of the English language, we leaned heavily on our IRC interpreter, Davi, to communicate with the elder members of the family. With Davi’s help, we were able to learn about some of the challenges the family has faced adjusting to an English-dominant environment. For example, the mother shared with us that she has struggled to pick up needed medicines at the local pharmacy because the store employees do not speak her language. She expressed a strong motivation to learn English so that she can navigate such situations with greater ease and efficiency.
The father also shared about his experience here in the US. He holds a job in the kitchen at a nearby Afghani carry-out restaurant where he works long and unpredictable hours. Having previously worked in a kitchen before the family left their homeland, he was in contact with American businesspeople and has some knowledge of our culture.
His primary focus is on his children’s education. All but the youngest attend nearby public schools.
Though the family has lived in Baltimore since the summer of 2017, they have not had the chance to explore much of the city. On future visits, we look forward to sharing our favorite aspects of Baltimore such as the Inner Harbor, the farmers’ market, and the Charm City Circulator, which offers free and convenient transportation. We also look forward to assisting the mother as she studies English.
We feel blessed to enter into a relationship with this family, and know we will gain as much knowledge from them as we hope to impart.
Refugee Mentorship Updates
Oct 2019 Update — “Introducing Our Second Mentee Family”
So far, it has been a humbling experience to find enough English words and hand gestures in order to communicate with the family, but as their English slowly improves, this is getting better. We’ve been inspired by their dedication to building a new life for themselves in Baltimore and learning a new language. The enthusiasm of the children when we arrive each week is nothing short of heartwarming. We’re excited to keep working on English lessons with them in the coming months, as well as to schedule outings for them around town such as Zoo Boo, since the children all have described wanting to visit the zoo and we can incorporate the Halloween tradition. We are also planning to do pumpkin carving and a traditional Thanksgiving event with the family. As we continue to work with the family we will provide monthly updates and ask for your support and prayers as we walk with this family in keeping with the principles of our faith!
April 2018 Update
It has also been exciting to witness the mother’s progress with English. She has learned the vocabulary for colors and household objects, and is currently working on the parts of the body. She has also been practicing grammar. We truly admire her eagerness to learn. The children are also learning English very well, and seem happy to translate for their parents. We hope that in May we can continue making progress and forge more meaningful memories with the family!
March 2018 Update
We also have identified a need to better support the older children of the family as they progress through American schooling. Spending time with this family has opened our eyes to the challenges of being an English Language Learner in our city’s public schools. The children, upon arrival, have been placed into standard curriculum classes. Challenging even for native English speakers, the children are having a difficult time learning content because they are also trying to learn English at the same time. We hope to determine a way to better support them.
Other challenges that have come up during our time together have been maneuvering through medical billing and obtaining the required documentation to apply for a library card, two seemingly mundane activities that prove to be more complicated when arriving to a new country. We are grateful to have been able to support the family through these processes. As we accompany them, we are gaining a valuable inside look into the reality of adjusting as refugees. We are excited to see what new lessons April brings.