The refugee family arrived during a cold, windy, rainy night. They’d flown from Indonesia to Frankfurt to JFK Airport, then ground transportation to the Philly Airport. I wonder what time their body thought it was?
What was most noticeable about their apartment was the stairwell, which was at a steep 75 degree (is it possible?) incline, almost as if you leaned a ladder against the walls.
We had to hold the handrails to climb the two flights. However, the family now has a living room, an eat-in kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The Social Worker was ill with the flu, so they were met by the Office Manager (herself a refugee from Laos) and the Social Work Intern. An ample dinner had been prepared by a Burmese family and several Burmese were on hand (at the apartment) to welcome them.
The Social Worker had cautioned me about not beguiling them with American generosity, however, she’s met refugees who came off the plane with so few possessions that they filled only two rice sacks!
I packed a box of winter clothes for them: new fleece hats, new knit gloves, 3 raincoats, two pairs of rain boots, 2 pairs of snow boots, several sweaters and a short down coat from a friend. I threw in a package of new sturdy plastic hangers and some colorful new hair ties. (Unfortunately, the girls’ hair look as if someone had hacked at them with a dull knife. Luckily, hair grows out fast.) In a smaller box were some kitchen supplies, including new towels, chopsticks, and a large cutting board. Finally, a Welcome Basket was packed with yesterday’s Inquirer, some magazines, some caramels and a new wooden mortar and pestle. I also gave them two colorful calendars with which to decorate the walls, as do my parents.
The next few days, the family and the Social Worker would have to go to the appropriate offices to process their papers. So, I plan to meet them on Wednesday to help with their cultural transition. The Director has requested that I teach them about financial responsibility– opening a bank account, writing checks, etc.
The girls are young enough to enroll in school, but the mother has to find work ASAP.
When my husband and I returned home, I looked in on our sleeping daughter and the lifetime of books and mementos all around our house and reveled in our blessings.