A Shared Language Makes a World of Difference

Submitted by Anne Bosch

As a native French speaker, I was recently asked by Megan O’Connor to attend a delivery as a translator. We helped a family from the Central African Republic, and I soon realized that our common language helped us build a special relationship that would help a father support and feed his family of 11.

Meeting the Family

When I first arrived on this delivery day, several children greeted us in French and shared their heartwarming stories. They explained how they had to walk for weeks on end around their village in the hope that the rebels would finally give up and leave, but when they realized these rebels were tenacious in their pursuit, they decided they would walk north to a refugee camp in the southern tip of Chad. It was difficult to fathom the extent of their suffering — they lost a brother and were forced to flee their homes with nothing more than a small bag and a few seeds and plants as nourishment.

Even as they explained their arduous journey, these boys smiled and I got the sense they were ready to put their past behind them and embrace their new lives in America. I soon learned that these children were a part of a family of 11: their father, Damien, his wife, seven children, and two nephews (who came to America with this family after their mother passed away).

Helping Damien Learn English

The delivery itself was a success, and about a week later, Damien called WTAP and asked if we could donate diapers to his family since they recently ran out. I used this opportunity to see how his English classes were going. He explained that he was on a waiting list until December, so I started making phone calls and learned there were actually several spots still available. The teacher warmly welcomed Damien and someone even offered to drive him home after class so he wouldn’t have to take the bus. He was extremely thankful, and while we spoke, I realized how difficult it must be to support this large family.

Putting Food on the Table

As a way to help Damien support his family, I called the owner of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The owner, Stella, recently mentioned that her farm had grown so much she needed help to keep up with the demand of the season. I used this opportunity to suggest Damien, and before I knew it, he had his first interview. Right away, Stella and Damien connected (with the help of our translation) and they agreed that he would start the following week. She handed him a bag of fresh vegetables and said he would receive this produce in addition to his hourly wages, a huge benefit for someone who has 11 mouths to feed.

In the end, this story reflects the vision of The Welcome to America Project. People from all different cultural backgrounds came together to discover ways that would make each other’s lives a little easier. Damien now has the ability to learn English and put food on his family’s table thanks to the heartwarming support of his new community.

Ed. Note: Thank you Anne for helping make a difference for this family in need. You went above and beyond to ensure this family’s transition to America was as smooth as possible.

Names changed to protect identity.

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