Life vests from the shores of Lesbos. As I pull them from the box my amazing friends, Luca and Silvia, packed them in after collecting them from those abandoned, rocky shores, I am struck by what it must have represented to the man, woman, or child who wrapped themselves in these vests and pushed off from their continent — pushed away from destruction and pain, from shattered dreams and living nightmares — placing their very lives and futures in the hands of their God and their fellow human beings on the other side of all that looming water. These lifeless orange shells awaken in me a deep sense of responsibility as I pull them out one by one. They were dropped in relief as feet touched solid, peaceful, European soil and eyes were trained forward with hope. And now their story is ours. Life vests from the shores of Lesbos.
The Emerald Project is a Utah-based organization that carefully designs dialogues to engage with non-Muslims to make Salt Lake Valley a more welcoming home to Muslims. As many of our refugee friends belong to the Muslim faith, we applaud opportunities that foster understanding and were pleased to support The Emerald Project’s 3rd annual “Slam the Islamophobia” event on February 15th.
Refugees often risk their lives crossing deserts, jungles, and oceans all in the search for shelter, freedom, or happiness. Yet, even once they’ve reached physical safety, mental mountains emerge that make daily life an uphill climb. At the November 2022 conference for the Utah Chapter of the Society for Public Health Education (USOPHE), presenters Shurooq Al Jewari and Sasha Sloan discussed mental health and inclusion, focusing on immigrants and refugees.
Holidays are an important time to include newcomers. Newcomers are often aching for the traditions and holiday magic they knew at home - and the connections with family and friends. The Garcias* came from a strong family and community that knew generous and giving holiday traditions. I knew, when I met our new friends from Venezuela, the rich bond we would have; this was a kindred spirit family. Even though we have been bad at communicating (Google Translate is such a false hope), it was easy to find connections that helped us love each other.