Friendship in Motion
Friendship in Motion
We met the Mohammed family through the Refugee Empowerment Program (REP), which is a partnership between Seek the Peace (Seek) and the Melting Pot that is working to engage refugees living in the nearby Vickery Meadow neighborhood. Its mission is to create a way for refugees and Americans to develop relationships and establish community together as refugees begin to understand the American culture around them. Originally from Afghanistan, the Mohammed family had been displaced to Moscow, Russia, for 10 years. They came to the United States as refugees in January 2013 and started attending REP that month.
As part of the program, refugees were paired with American mentors to get to know each other and walk through American culture and customs together. Four mentors were paired with the family. I was paired with Maryam Mohammed, a very bright and opinionated 15-year-old. Maryam’s father, Jawid, and mother, Huma, were paired with other mentors as well. Over the course of the spring, we learned from one another, laughed and got to know each other’s stories. As with any relationship, it takes time to build trust, but by the end of the spring, the American mentors and refugees in the program had grown to become good friends.
An emotional day for many was the program’s graduation ceremony. The mentors and refugees stood in front of the group and read each refugee participant’s goals for their transition and new life in the U.S. Many refugees voiced plans to attend school or open businesses and live as productive citizens and helpful family members in their new country. During the program, mentors and refugees could speak about what they’d learned together during the spring. We listened as two women who were paired together talked about how both were pregnant and having baby boys soon, and how they looked forward to continuing their relationship and growing their friendship. Story after story proved that other mentors and refugees had also been touched by the program and enjoyed getting to know each other.
I love what the REP program stands for and says in its mission. Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story matters. I learned the importance of listening to others’ stories as well as sharing my own, and how each person’s story affects more than just himself or herself. Everyone can has something to offer as well as things to learn. I feel blessed to learn daily from my refugee friends and also the American mentors, because we all have stories. And everyone’s story matters.
Since the program, we have continued our relationships with the Mohammed family. We continue to get to know each other to eat in each other’s homes, serving traditional Afghan food and American food (barbeque chicken, hamburgers, potato salad- you get the picture). We’ve been to the mall and events and watched fireworks together for the 4th of July. We are lucky to know the Mohammed family and have the chance to learn from them.
It’s a beautiful thing to see stories being woven together and grow into a rich tapestry of friendship. And we are blessed to be creating memories with the Mohammeds that will always be a part of our stories.
– Ashley Luttrell, Seek Volunteer