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Blog → March 18, 2018

Common Roots

Matthew Connecting With Refugees

Written by Matthew Longhurst

I am a third-generation resident of Western Washington state. My grandparents (both sides) moved here in the 1950s, uprooting their families after a handful of previous generations had set down roots in Utah and eastern Idaho. Before that, most of my lineal progenitors migrated to this country directly from their homelands across northern and western Europe: England, Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden. My family history is a tapestry of migration.


As I have learned more about my family history it has become clear that I am the product not just of immigrants, but of refugees. Whether their persecutions were religious, economic, social, or natural, many of my ancestors were uprooted in fear and turmoil. For me, the refugee crisis of the last several years has closely coincided with a growing knowledge of and a strong sense of connection to my forebearers. My ancestors’ life experiences echo the stories of so many whose stories we’ve shared over the last two years.

In the same way that my life and prosperous circumstances were made possible by so many sacrifices over many generations, I hope that today’s refugees will be able to create a future of possibility for themselves and their children. However, one look around reveals that they must combat suspicion, distrust, and even xenophobia and racism in heavy doses no matter where in the world they land. I cannot help but feel a strong sense kinship and an obligation to help where I can.

This is the reason I help to tell their stories.

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Over the last year we have developed close relationships built on mutual trust with many of the families we help. We know their names, their personal stories, and individual needs. We are fully aware that our donations are only a temporary band aid for a larger problem. A bag of groceries only goes so far, and they will be back the following Saturday for more. Sometimes, though, we can make a bigger impact in someone’s life.

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Suzanne Kaufman’s colorful illustrations are a delightful pair to Alaxandra Penfold’s narrative stating “all are welcome here,” no matter one's appearance or background.

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