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Sharing our stories

01/13/2022 03:47:50 PM

Jan13

Beth Green & Alice Markowitz

Each time our Afghan family welcomes us into their home we are greeted by a different delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen. Usually it is from the lunch the family has just finished, but this day, a weekend, the visit seemed to be more social and less business than usual. A chance to build our relationship by getting to know each other a little better. As we settled down on the floor, as is the custom in Afghanistan, the husband spread a plastic tablecloth over the carpet and brought out two plates of food. The wife made sambusa and bolani for us. Sambusa is a thin yeast dough wrapper around a well seasoned, slightly spicy potato filling wrapped up like a blintz or Chinese egg roll.  Bolani is again a thin yeast dough, but this time shaped more like a small pizza and stuffed with seasoned onions and spinach. They were delicious!

As we ate, we talked. And as we talked the complexities and challenges of settling a new family into such a different culture took a backseat for a moment. So much goes into setting up a completely new life and identity from scratch in a new country. The complexities we are facing together include a host of bureaucratic chores including obtaining social security numbers, applying for Mass Health, finding doctors, organizing ESL lessons, and gathering details to prove residency in order to receive benefits. And on the emotional side, recognizing their worry about getting work, the cost of housing, their long-term financial security, and deep concern about family left behind, with whom they keep in close touch and miss greatly.

But these challenges briefly melted away, and we became three families sharing stories and getting to know each other.

As we talked and ate, we learned that in Afghanistan the family had lived in a house with their parents and siblings and their children. Imagine the trauma of having to quickly leave such a bustling, supportive household and coming to a new country, alone, with no family around, not knowing where you were headed once you got to the US, and being deeply worried about the family you left behind! As we continued our conversation, the daughter finished her food and was eager to play. Her father reminded her to recite her prayer of thankfulness for the food she had eaten. She did and then scampered off to play.

Despite all the difficulties they have faced and their worry about the future ahead of them, the family is always incredibly welcoming and gracious. The father is energetic, positive and determined to succeed. I enjoy the optimistic twinkle in his eye. The mother is quiet and shy to speak, but her soft, warm eyes are attentive and alert to the goings on. Their smiles are hidden behind their Covid masks but we can see it in their eyes. The daughter is a petite and energetic kid, just as you might expect of any girl her age, despite all the upheaval she has been through. And the youngest - we’ve enjoyed seeing him go from furniture walking, when he first arrived a mere three weeks ago, to taking his first tentative independent steps across the living room just as the family is learning to take their first independent steps towards settling into their new home, their new country and their new life.

Many members have contacted us to ask how they can help. Thanks to the generosity of the CDT/HBT communities, as well as many others, the family is now in a simply but comfortably furnished apartment and has the clothes they need for winter, kitchen and home supplies and some toys for the children. The Leadership Team has thought intentionally about introducing new people into the family’s lives on a gradual basis, slowly as the family adjusts and builds trust, in a way that is safe in this Covid environment. Helping this family is a marathon not a sprint! Over time there will be many volunteer opportunities for CDT/HBT members and our new partners at Reservoir Church in Cambridge.

As we leave, after a lovely visit, as the thank you’s fly back and forth, the family again tells us how deeply they appreciate all that our community is doing for them and how lucky and blessed they are to have been delivered into the hands of our community. The CDT/HBT community should be very proud of all that you have done to provide a warm, comfortable, inviting home for this family!

Wed, November 30 2022 6 Kislev 5783