Post by Wendy Wrobel
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On the heels of National Immigrant Day I had the opportunity to volunteer with Afghani guests of the U.S. Who are hopefully future refugee/asylee applicants to the U.S.
There is so much to process from that day, but the phrase that has stuck with me the most is, “My Sister, My Friend.”
On August 30th, 2021, the U.S. drew the final members of their troops from Afghanistan.
With them we brought with us 65,000 Afghani’s whose connection to the U.S. made them a direct target of the Taliban. (For a more information, go here.)
Leaving behind an estimated 100,000 more who would be eligible for refugee status due to their connection to the U.S.
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Now, our guests, wait. They sit in various locations across the U.S., with families torn apart.
Stripped of their country, flag, possessions, family members, occupations, homes, and so much more. Their present is as fuzzy as their future. To clarify, safe, but waiting.
During all of this, I watched horrified. How do we respond? What can I do? Enter my dear friend Leea Collard.
She had friends from her undergrad who were volunteering directly with these guests, and we could participate!
I had no idea what to expect, our team went in just hoping to be useful somehow. These people have been through trauma we can barely imagine. However inadequate I felt, if there was anything we could possibly do, I knew we had to try.
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We went through orientation and training.
We prepared our materials: coloring sheets, markers, chess boards, soccer balls.
Then, we met them. Dozens of children ran in. Some timid, some ecstatic.
It had been made clear. Above all, our job was to love on the children.
For some, this meant simply being together and coloring. For others, to be able to hear their life stories and meet their siblings. Holding, hugging, high fives, fist bumps. Spinning, round after round of duck duck goose and red light green light.
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Some stories I heard were more wonderful then heartbreaking, a family of 7 brought out with their lifelong friends family of 6! Somehow here together, months later, being processed at the same time. Some stories included pictures of waiting on the tarmac, hearing of people starving to death. Kids and adults who were beaten, ripped from family, recovering from trauma we cannot even comprehend.
We moved locations at the site to play outdoor games. As soon as we arrived at the field, two girls grab my hand and they say to me,
“My Sister, My Friend.”
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The next week, I was able to return again. This time working with people newer to the site, being newly processed. The trauma felt more intense here. Children checking out, less openness, more fear.
And yet, still, generosity. One family offered us tea, a luxury, so integral to their culture. (They made this tea in one of the tea kettles bought through the the Center’s and the JGJPP drive! Thank you for your generosity!)
Another, gave us henna. Though we had a language barrier, we gathered for warmth, holding children on my lap and saying as much as we can. Community beyond words.
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Following our time with these wonderful people, my feelings remain conflicted.
I feel so privileged to get to know them, even briefly. Privileged to play games with the children, hear a bit about their lives. So thankful they have been welcomed to our country.
Even so, so heartbroken at them having to have left their country. They don’t want to be here. They left their lives, family, friends.
Certainly they will adjust quickly. Even so we covet your prayers, your donations. Likewise, reach out to your church, your schools, your politicians and ask what they’re doing to help!
Let us truly embody the wisdom of a child by being, “My Sister, My Friend.”
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Law Clerk. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.