Adopt-a-Family is an annual event hosted by the Welcome to America Project. It aims to bring American families together with their new refugee neighbors. Participants can share their favorite holiday traditions, bring gifts or treats, and talk about life in their respective countries. This year’s event was held on December 15th. The following is one volunteer family’s experience.
On Saturday, while it was wet and cold outside, my husband and our two teenaged boys went to visit a family of seven that fled Iraq and arrived in Phoenix only four months ago. We approached their modest home in North Phoenix just as the translator arrived, and emptied our car of the gifts that we had brought in hopes of bringing some comfort to this new family in their new home.
Immediately, we were ushered into the family’s living room where the grandmother and mother asked if they could bring us a warm drink. Shortly, coffee, tea and a plethora of home baked goods – including some Iraqi specialties – arrived in beautiful glass cups and on silver platters.
While we were nibbling on the goodies, the children came in to say hello. We mentioned that most of the packages were for them and that, if it was OK with the parents, they were welcome to open the presents. The two older girls dragged the boxes into their room and a few minutes later came out with big grins on their faces and kind words of thanks. They even helped the younger twins open their gifts – one of which was a noisy toy that was happily enjoyed for the rest of our visit!
The family had escaped Iraq due to safety concerns during and after the war. Thankfully, they had family already here in Phoenix and have been able to adjust quickly. The two older girls are thriving in school and the younger ones seem quite well adjusted. We talked about the differences between Iraq and America, and found that we had many interests in common despite the distance between the country in which we were raised.
For our family, reaching out to a neighbor, sitting and having coffee and tea, watching children open presents, and knowing that our small tokens made someone feel welcome in our country, helped us to celebrate the holiday season for what it truly is – a time to remember that Love came into the world to show us how to live with one another. We are grateful to Julia, Ophelia and The Welcome to America Project for giving us a chance to live our commitment to love and care for our neighbors.
– The Thomas Family