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!
Refugee Mentorship Updates
April 2018 Update
This month, our relationship with the family has continued to grow and evolve. We are excited to have added two new members to our group. As our community strengthens, it is beautiful to witness how the family’s sense of home in Baltimore also strengthens. For example, one Saturday this month two of our group members went to Pierce Park at the Inner Harbor with the family. The children had such a good time, they asked if there was a way they could take the bus to the park themselves. It is exciting to see them feel connected to the city. Another activity we did this month was go to the Baltimore Farmers Market. At first, it was slightly overwhelming for the family. But after perusing the Market, the family left satisfied with four dozen eggs! We feel grateful to be able to help the family ease into such new experiences and take full advantage of what this city has to offer.
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
Our first full month with working with the family has been a tremendous learning experience for all parties involved. We were able to follow through with our idea to introduce the family to the Charm City Circulator, and, by way of that resource, to the Inner Harbor, a Halal market, and the Esperanza Center. The Esperanza Center is a useful resource for the mother, who can take ESOL classes there. One member of our group has been meeting weekly with the mother to support her English studies. This month, she has learned all of the letters of the alphabet and the days of the week. We feel she would benefit from more frequent lessons, but are pleased with the progress we have been able to make together so far.
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.