Dedicated Their Story is Our Story (TSOS) volunteers work hard to collect and share the experiences of refugees to deepen understanding and influence action. Learn more about the work, the people, and what moves us!
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.
We know there are stories in Kansas City that need to be told. So, we sat down and made a plan. We listed individuals, nonprofit organizations, and resettlement agencies that we have relationships with. Then we listed ways we could weave these stories together by topic: connected communities, housing, resettlement, etc. Our list grew and grew, and before we knew it we had a roadmap.
In April, I had the pleasure of volunteering with one of the nonprofit organizations providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to people seeking asylum (“asylum seekers”) along the United States and Mexico border - Team Brownsville. Founded in 2018, Team Brownsville serves immigrants, primarily those who are seeking asylum, who arrive in Brownsville, Texas or who are waiting in the Mexican cities of Matamoros or Reynosa for entry into the United States.
Imagine being a skilled professional–a doctor even–respected in your field. And then war erupts, displacing you from your home, your family, your livelihood, your identity. When such a physician arrives in the United States, their credentials and expertise are erased and they must study for, and pass three United States Medical Licensure Exams (USMLEs), each of which involves fees and lengthy study programs. In addition, they must complete a residency program which are extremely competitive. Given the low-income, high-living expense lifestyles refugee doctors face upon arrival, these are steep barriers to overcome. TSOS is working to make these obstacles surmountable.
On January 25th, TSOS was invited to present to a group of approximately 50 faculty and administrative leaders at Utah Valley University (UVU). Specifically, they wanted to understand how forcibly displaced individuals might arrive at UVU, what types of burdens they might be carrying, and how the university could better support the unique needs of these students. UVU is the largest university in the state of Utah, and its leadership was anxious to discuss ways to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for UVU’s over 200 refugee students.
I want to help newcomers because I see myself in them. A young Afghan woman I mentor, we’ll call her Sarah, reminds me of myself 6 years ago. She is the same age I was when I came to the U.S. She is by herself. Sometimes I get emotional thinking about Sarah managing to start a new life all by herself. Cooking for herself, taking care of herself, and doing it without family or community.
University and college campuses are often lively centers of positive community action. That’s why when Their Story is Our Story (TSOS) was invited to present our Displacement Today lecture series at The College of Wooster in Ohio, we jumped at the chance to connect with their faculty and students.
On June 24, 2023, TSOS had the opportunity to join with NoVA Friends of Refugees and other organizations at the One Journey Festival, a celebration of unity, diversity, and refugee contributions and talent. It was so fun.
Like many of my peers, I discovered in my sixties that volunteering for causes I care about fills me with purpose and joy. So, when I heard that my small southern city was taking in more than 150 Afghan refugees, I signed up to help. As a white, middle-income, semi-retired woman, I’m a cliche among new refugee sponsors, motivated by the best of intentions, but not always the best awareness of all that sponsorship entails.
What would you do if there were no books readily available in your language? Although Somali is the second most spoken language among students in the Seattle Public School system, books in the Somali language have been hard to come by. That is, until Farhiya Mohamed, founder and director of the Seattle-based Somali Family Safety Task Force, had a brilliant idea—to make her own books in the Somali language.