Cary Pennington Photography
The time of thanksgiving has come around already. Thanksgiving is a holiday that we don’t celebrate where I am from, but I really love this tradition where no gifts are exchanged, but just the gratitude of spending time together is expressed around a very nicely cooked meal. Taking the time to say thank you.
I have a lot to be thankful for. I have an incredible husband who makes me a better person, a healthy family and friends who support and put up with me and a remarkable team, agents, managers, teachers, followers, and colleagues helping make one of my dreams come true and stay sharp! No BS allowed!
It’s a time where it is important to acknowledge how fortunate we are but also to give back. I’d like to talk about charities and the ones that I love out there. There are so many of course but because while public speaking at a high school recently I saw a parade that had been put together by the students to focus on cultural awareness it made me want to talk about the International Rescue Committee, an association for which my husband and I got the chance to volunteer in the past.
My husband and I had been to East Africa for our honeymoon, where we were extremely lucky to meet the 2 kids we sponsor through PlanUSA.org. See English blog. Coming back to US soil we felt like we could do more.
We like to eat food from all around the world, it is such a vicarious experience. We had found one Ethiopian restaurant that had been opened by a refugee family near where we lived. They could open this restaurant because when they arrived in the US the IRC helped them to get accustomed with the United States. This is a very difficult transition that is easy to take for granted, I know I did.
Coming from Europe to the USA I thought it was a very difficult journey with so many new things to learn, and yet things are pretty similar to Western Europe where I am from. I can’t imagine what it must be to have to learn a new alphabet or even have to learn how to read and write being an adult.
We got the chance to tutor two Somali families. The first one was composed of a husband and his wife, their 4 children, and the niece of the husband. They’d been living in a refugee camp in Kenya for 30 years and finally got the chance to come to the US as refugees in California. They arrived over the holidays and were allocated an apartment with 2 bedrooms in an affordable inland area. Not everyone had shoes and clothing for the season or at all. The IRC took care of it very quickly and so did we. As everything was pretty much closed at the time they arrived Matt and I decided to start tutoring them over the holidays because they were waiting all day in their apartment with nothing to do and not knowing anywhere to go. We would tutor them English, yes, the Frenchie was tutoring English to a family from Somalia who had been living in Kenya. We were a bit naive as to how difficult this would be because they literally didn’t speak a word of English when they arrived. They were so appreciative of our help. We taught them as much as we could about English and living in the US. They taught us many things as well.
One day we even got to take them all to the ocean. We arranged to take two big cars and put in donated car seats for the kids. The kids were thrilled although it took us a long time to figure out how to place the infant seats in the cars since there were no instructions. Seriously?! It’s so hard!
We tutored them for about 2 and half months 2-3 times a week and still talk about how amazing this experience was.
The second family we tutored was from Somalia as well, and had also been in a refugee camp in Kenya for years. A wife, a husband, 3 kids and one on the way. The husband was a nurse in his country and his English was extremely good, so it was easier to get started. We tutored the kids and the wife English through playing games and tried to help with getting the husband’s diploma transferred so he could work. The costs of living in California are very high, the family decided to go to Minnesota where they had other family members.
Working with these families was really an amazing experience. If you’d like to learn more about the IRC please visit their website www.rescue.org. They are an amazing organization and put every dollar they receive to good use.
Other charities that I like out there:
www.operationcalendar.org / www.warriorfoundation.com
Happy Thanksgiving! Caroline