Showing Up With Long-Term Presence

The intersection of so many people, items, services, and ideas is often where we find our newest neighbors and mentors stepping into life together. Years ago, a new family from East Africa arrived at the PDX airport, to hugs from some of their friends that lived with them in the camp they called home together years before, as well as to a team of people that had lived in the United States for all of their lives that were ready to come alongside, listen to, and support this brand new-to-Portland family.

In the days ahead, this team of friends that committed to intentionally being present with those in the resettlement community, would find themselves learning words in Kinyarwanda as they helped their new neighbors practice English. Rides on the Max or bus would turn into cultural orientations. School meetings and conferences turned into multicultural, multilingual gatherings of confusion and joy for everyone at some level as all parties learned the dance of what it meant to slow down and lean into the complexity offered in nearly every moment shared.

For years now, this family of seven, now calling East Portland their home, has collided with the love and effort of so many folks in our Refugee Care Collective community. Before they even set foot in the United States, their new-to-them duplex was stocked with rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables that would be eaten quickly upon arrival, as the family slowly unpacked Restart Kits that were built and chosen with love by generous people in the Portland area.

An initial mentor team that would walk with them for years still calls them friends and checks in with them regularly. As new needs arose, so did new mentor relationships that could walk with the family through specific needs around medical care and language. As kids in the family needed new academic support, youth mentors entered the picture ready to learn alongside kids in new ways. Gift cards and handmade beanies and scarves landed on their doorstep this past holiday season in a way that communicates that even after all these years, our resettled neighbors are still welcome and that this city is theirs now too.

Even in a pandemic, the Refugee Care Collective community has been able to show up in the lives of this ever-adjusting family. A 17-year-old volunteer has been connecting with the 17-year-old in this large family over Zoom, every week since the school-year began. They’ve done homework together, interpreted bills and mail via video chat, and even spent time applying for colleges together in hopes of what’s to come!

It is such an honor to walk alongside this family from East Africa. This is the work you are making possible. Thank you for being a part of these stories that are playing out across the city!