My Afternoon with the Al Homsi family
By: Amanda Ebling
My name is Amanda, and I am a Shepherd Intern at New American Pathways, in the Career Services department. I’ve really enjoyed assisting the team that is committed to getting refugees employed and having opportunities to interact with refugees here; I know they are some of the most courageous, deserving people.
I was recently invited to step out of the Career Services department for an afternoon to go to a Syrian refugee family’s home with the head of communications, Amy, and an Arabic translator, Shafeka, for an interview. We were introduced to the whole family—the mother, father, his two disabled brothers, two boys and one little girl—who greeted us with warm smiles and generous hospitality.
We all gathered around their living room table as we drank coffee and competed for Shafeka’s translating skills for our side conversations. The little girl, Abrar, sat next to me and we did our best to communicate with her limited English and my nonexistent Arabic, relying mostly on hand motions and smiles.
When Grace Staples, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, arrived, the room became more serious as they talked about leaving their war torn country, living in refugee camps for years, and still struggling to adjust to their new lives in the United States.
After their kind welcome into their home filled with cheer and laughter, it was hard to imagine that they had had such a relentless past. I knew those parents, who brought two disabled men and three children out of Syria and into the United States, were true heroes.
The whole time, Abrar kept bringing me pieces of candy. When the mother stepped away to get prepare dinner for Eid, she invited me to sit on the floor with her and shape some dough into rolls. She tried her best to teach me how to make them smooth and round, but mine kept turning out like jagged pancakes. Her children came over to laugh at me as I failed to copy her dexterous technique!
When it was time for a photo, the mother came downstairs in a delicate pink sequence hijab. I knew it must have been one saved for special occasions when her children “ooh”ed and “ah”ed. I told her I thought it was beautiful, and she took it off and wrapped it around my head. Her family laughed and took my picture. As I started to take it off, she told me to keep it. I refused but thanked her.
I didn’t need a piece of pink fabric to remember the afternoon I spent with the Al Homsi family, their kindness and resilience will always stick with me. I am grateful that their family and families like theirs are here and out of harm’s way.
An article about this interview also appeared in the AJC on July 2nd: http://www.myajc.com/news/national-govt–politics/clarkston-refugees-fear-fallout-from-court-ruling-travel-ban/0teDHbMSsein4YSPACbsBK/