A Lot with a Little: The Power of Connection

by Jackie Kaiser, Summer 2017 Intern

A small Somali girl, just 5 years old, a plate of dinner in one hand with a bagel in the other, standing in our crowded, chaotic backyard with tears streaming down her face. Her small form and silent tears slipped into the noise and the bustle of serving dinner to all our neighborhood friends.  

Kneeling to her side, a gentle hand on her shoulder, I asked her what was wrong. She melted into my lap, her eyes wide and searching my face for a connection to her need. With prompting from me and nods from her, I came to understand that while she was getting her dinner, she had fallen out of sight of her older brothers who had brought her to the barbeque, and she felt lost. Holding her plate for her, I took her small hand in mine and we began walking around the yard, looking for her brothers whom I did not know, but she was so desperate to find. 

When she spotted them, the three siblings ran to each other and embraced. They stood like that, together and in the middle of the craziness, for about a minute, and when they turned back to me, all three had wide smiles on their small faces. The brothers took back the food I was holding, each took one of their little sister’s hands, and took off to enjoy the rest of the night. I didn’t see them apart for the rest of the evening, and they all left laughing at the end.

This interaction was only a few minutes, but I believe it mirrors a larger picture. This little girl is not unlike the many new refuge families who enter our community each year. Upon being granted their resettlement and arriving here, they are in a safe space, and set up for initial services and assistance, such as a home and connection to local support- their dinner. But then what? In a sea of new people, new customs, and new experiences, how are they to feel settled and included rather than temporary and outside?

“Dinner” is provided to refugees as they are resettled in the states, but where are the brothers? The process of transitioning from survival to thriving is so heavily affected by the support and community that comes with having other people in your same situation to walk through life with. At Hopeprint, we have an opportunity to be a north star in helping refugees find their lost brothers and sisters, biological or in spirit, within the chaos of life in their new backyard, Syracuse.

In my role working with the adults this summer, I have unique honor and privilege of working with the ladies of Her Village.  Monday nights, in the living room of one of the Hopeprint homes women meet to talk about life in whatever language they know, be in community with other women whose home countries they may or may not share, and laugh- a language we all have in common. 

Last week was my first, and already I have experienced that it is a very special group. Pushing through the language barrier, we shared life and enjoyed each other’s company. Attendance was low, but spirits were high! Getting to walk around our neighborhood and hear the stories of these amazing women who have traveled so far and lived so much was just a glimpse of the tough and beautiful things happening on the Northside. Money can’t buy moments like this… but it can pay a shuttle driver to pick up more of our friends next week, and I can’t wait to meet them!