Category Archives: refugees

Because really, what can we do? 


But seriously, Kendra, what can we do? I received this question a lot yesterday.

We can start by reaching out to members of our community that will be disproportionately affected by our President Elect’s #xenophobia, #racism, and #misogyny.

I started with my friend A (abbreviated for obvious reasons), a college student who grew up in a series of #refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya. After ten years and much vetting from the UNHCR and the US, his family finally received resettlement in the United States.

Nevermind that A is juggling college and a job with impressive grit and grace, or that he helps to raise his siblings, or that he’s multilingual, or that he is kind to his core. A is Somali and Muslim, and our President Elect has made it known in no uncertain terms that A and his family’s kind would be barred from entry to the United States.

Believe me when I say that it would be at a huge loss to my community and to our country. And that whatever despair I feel over today’s election result, I need to think instead of the fear he must feel. And so many others like him. And pause to make sure they know I care.

And invite you to do the same in your community.

#refugeeswelcome

When they stop coming


But is there still hope? For them, for us, for the world? These are the questions my friends ask me from afar.

Yes, I reply without hesitation. Can’t you see it in their eyes? When they stop coming, then we’ll know there is no more hope.

(These unaccompanied minors have fled without guardians. Their parents, grandparents, and families are either dead, imprisoned, sick, disabled, displaced, or otherwise unable to make the journey to safety. Standing on the distant shores, loading into a raft, these boys were very much aware that boats sink and kids die. They prepared for that possibility as much as one can without the privilege of ever having learned to swim. When I welcomed these boys to the Lesvos shore they asked for my help in removing the “waterproofing” tape they had wrapped around their phones. They were anxious to make a call to let someone, anyone know they made it across the sea safely. It breaks my heart when their sisters, left behind, are the ones answering the phone.)

November, 2015.

Molyvos, Lesvos, Greece.

More than our leaders have forgotten


What will they remember about the way the world treated them? Will it be more than the history our leaders have forgotten?

November, 2015.

Lesvos, Greece.

Policies and Barbed Wire 


Back home, it was too dangerous to go to school. What a crime, we like to call it, for children to be robbed of an education. Unless, of course, it’s our policies and barbed wire keeping those very children in camps and out of classrooms. Then we’ll just call it national security.
November, 2015.
Lesvos, Greece.

Photo Cred: Mark Yarnell

Not a life-saving device

#refugee

She boarded the raft in her mother’s arms wearing this vest. It’s stamped with the warning “not a life saving device.” Couldn’t save a childhood either. She would come to understand that two weeks later shivering in rain-soaked clothes, her lips turning blue, the border guard scanning a list of nationalities permitted to cross. Hers wasn’t there, absent from his list like security from her future. What will she remember about how the free world treated her? Will it be more than our leaders have forgotten about history?

November, 2015.

Molyvos, Lesvos, Greece.

Screaming at the Statue of Liberty


The last boat of the night arrived at 11pm. By 1:30am, we had given food and dry clothes to one hundred refugees. Families huddled together on plywood floors, under UN-issued blankets, finding their place among the feet and snores of strangers.

A baby was screaming. I negotiated steps around this uncomfortable geometry of limbs to offer a pacifier. I wanted to scream too, across the oceans to the Statue of Liberty: if not them, who are your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

November, 2015.

Molyvos, Lesvos, Greece.

The privilege in kneeling at a refugee’s feet 


There is no end to the wet feet that arrive here. Tonight, I helped a tired, shivering, elderly Afghan woman take off soaking socks and shoes symptomatic of a raft too weak to contain one’s hopes and fears. She sat. I knelt at her feet. No words were exchanged. Just my calm, warm hands on her cold, weathered skin. But within me welled up an overwhelming sense of privilege to be the provider of refuge and not the refugee.

Molyvos, Lesvos, Greece.

November, 2015.