Why We Work: A Story from Home
A few months ago, I had coffee with the man I would be tutoring in English speaking. I got a strong tea and had my little notebook and matching pen with a list of questions ready for him. Sitting there, I had no idea the change this meeting was about to make in my life. Finally, the man came in with a little girl on his hip and a small boy walking along with a tiny hand in his. As we sat and tried to chat in broken English, the story of this amazing man began to unfold.
Up until that day I had only referred to this man as the “Libyan refugee” I would be tutoring. I had found him on accident while searching for places to tutor adults in English literacy in my city; the “refugee” part wasn’t even on my radar until I ran across the option in the back of a tutoring pamphlet. I knew the man’s name-- my coordinator had told me many things about him-- but I had only ever called him “refugee.”
While this is an important facet of his life, it does not define him. He is so much more than what has happened to him. Sitting there over coffee and tea, I came to know him as a father, a son, a brother, a former attorney with his own practice, a community leader, a best friend to someone, a human being. He wanted to get a library card so he could get books to read to his children. He wanted to learn English so he could be a part of his new community. These are the things he was asking of me. Across the booth, I saw his two year old little boy smiling at me from ear to ear with his one little tooth and his three year old girl’s big shy eyes peeking out from hiding behind her daddy. We laughed together.
In that moment, I saw myself in that family. I thought about who I would be if my own father had to leave everything behind and start over in a place far from home with a new language or live in a camp and never again feel what it’s like to come home. Just like Mohammed, my father would be lost if he was not allowed to do his work and contribute to society. What’s hardest to imagine is my father being treated with no dignity as a human being like my new friend Mohammed and the millions like him across the world.
This is the moment that sparked HumanRefuge(e). We want everyone to have a Mohammed. We want everyone to know that no matter how big this crisis seems, they can make a difference.
Since officially launching HumanRefuge(e) in January 2016, we have been able to provide housing for two refugee families and inspire two attorneys to trade training in refugee and immigration law for pro bono representation of families in need. We have had an outpouring of support from all over the world and have welcomed incredibly talented contributors, correspondents, and interns not only in every corner of the United States, but also in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. We’ve seen and heard so much pain and suffering and still have been given the opportunity to see ten times as much hope and love from people who have had everything taken away. Somehow they keep going so we know we have to keep going too.
HumanRefuge(e) is about education unbiased by politics, religion, gender, or national ties. It’s about showing the hearts of these people and combating the fears the world has created against them. It’s about showing people that they can make a change in the world. Every single life is something that we should work to protect in order to keep our humanity. Every life-- whether Libyan, Syrian, Ukranian, Ugandan, Congolese, Indian, American, Lakota, Shawnee -- costs the same.
We need all the support we can get and that doesn't just mean financially. It means taking a minute out of your day to learn, to feel, and to start a conversation about the truth of humanity today.