Connecting Cultures and Finding Friends

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Leaving your home and family and moving to a new country with different customs can be a lonely experience. But not necessarily.

A picnic hosted by Church of the Savior last Saturday for local Afghan families was an example of a special opportunity to build new relationships. Adila with her daughters, Hadya and Safa, had a fun afternoon there with other refugees who live in the area.

The girls had a wonderful time playing with the other children, running around the gym with their balloons. Volunteers had prepared large quantities of delicious Afghan food, including traditional desserts, which were a big hit with the all the children. Adila’s family was the last to leave the party because her Henna tattooing skills were in high demand, giving her the chance to make new connections with other women who live nearby.

Mohammad has also been busy. This week he started a new job with a local painting contractor while continuing his weekend and evening work at Target.

If you’d like to help, there are two particular needs. Mohammad would appreciate gently used summer clothes (extra-large shirts and pants size 38). And Frank Weber, who heads the driving team, could use more volunteers as we move into the summer months.

Although we postponed MLUC’s celebration of Afghan culture (originally scheduled for this Sunday) there are still ways to learn and connect. Lee Dastur has compiled a reading list with article links and book suggestions (see attached link). If you’d like to be involved in a discussion based on these materials, please contact Lee or Eileen.

On the Go with Our Afghan Family

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

These past weeks have been a hectic time for our Afghan family and all their MLUC volunteers. But together we are moving ahead, figuratively and literally.

One major step took place when Mohammad earned his Pennsylvania driver’s license. He is now urgently looking for a used car so he can get a new job. With the help of Barbara Colton, he’s in the market for a basic four-door model. He’d prefer a smaller car for better mileage, in the $6,000 price range. If you know of an available (and much-needed) sedan, please e-mail Barbara with make, model, year, and mileage.

Even with a family car, Adila and the girls will still require rides for doctor visits and other appointments. Additional drivers are needed to join Frank Weber’s team as we come and go during the summer months. If you could help, please e-mail Frank.

Adila is also working with Barbara C. to start her own at-home business as a private seamstress. She will transfer her extensive experience in Afghanistan to “Adila’s Sewing Service” on the Main Line.

She is offering a full range of mending and tailoring services for both men and women, by appointment only in her Wayne apartment. To check out a sample price list for standard jobs, see https://tinyurl.com/Adilapricing.

To request an appointment or ask a question, click on https://tinyurl.com/adilasewsservice

Life is moving forward in other areas, too. Thanks to help from Rosemary Fitzgerald, the family has had multiple medical appointments and the health of both parents is improving. Barbara Weber and Claudia McBride have been busy planning for the girls summer break from regular classes. Hadya will keep active with Radnor vacation programs, English lessons, and day camp.

Adila is learning a lot as wellespecially how to shop smartly in American stores. Carolyn Jaeger and Joanne Rose are helping her use her WIC card to get the most from this nutrition program for women and children. They are also accompanying her to the grocery store as she learns the ins and outs of a marketing experience very different from what she experienced in Kabul.

To help Adila and Mohammad, two donations of used items would be especially appreciated: an iron for her and summer men’s clothes (shirts extra-large and pants size 38) for him.

And while our family is learning about the American way of life, we have a chance to study Afghan culture. Lee Dastur has put together a brief reading list “cobbled together” from assorted sources that includes article links and book suggestions. Click here to access the list.

We’re considering two discussions based on these materialsone about the history of Afghanistan and a second about current conditions. If you’d like to be involved with these sessions (especially if you have any Afghan experiences or expertise), e-mail Lee or Eileen Andrews.

Manana, Volunteers, Mehrabani

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Translated from Pashto, this headline means “Thank you, volunteers, you’ve been very kind.”
And this is an especially appropriate sentiment in April—National Volunteer Month—as MLUC continues to support our Afghan refugee family in numerous ways as they strive for new, independent lives.

Last week, M, A, H, and S appreciated ongoing help in English tutoring from Jane LaMotte’s ESL team, job counseling from Barbara Colton, budgeting advice from Carol Hillman, educational planning by Barbara Weber, healthcare from medical coordinator Rosemary Fitzgerald, rides from Frank Weber’s driving team, and a variety of other behind-the-scenes assistance from numerous volunteers and donors.

There were several new efforts as well.
• Nuala Carpenter facilitated Adila’s participation in a new Afghan women’s support group. The women will gather weekly at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church to learn new skills, trade information about their American lives, and make friends while practicing English.
• Joanne Rose and Carolyn Jaeger are now helping the family practice smarter, healthier food shopping. They will lend their helping hands as the family learns all the ins and outs of American stores, from writing a shopping list to picking the best buys.
• Barbara Colton is assisting Adila in setting up her own at-home sewing business.

Look for more details in the weeks to come.
In these and many other ways, MLUC volunteers can help. In particular, more drivers are needed as the family schedules more appointments and commitments. (If you’re interested in joining his team, contact Frank at Frank.Weber@comcast.net.) In general, back-up support may be helpful as all these new activities get under way. So for each and every volunteer past, present and future: Manana, mehrabani!

Coming up next month: We’re counting the days until Sunday, May 22, the date for MLUC’s Celebration of Afghan Culture. Look for more information from coordinators Trish Brandon and Teresa Zink.

Finding New Friends, Living New Lives

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Our Afghan family has been out and about these days, becoming more a part of their new American community.

M and the girls, were the first to venture out, with work and school their initial priorities in the early days. But now A is also finding her way with new activities and relationships.

For example, she is working with our refugee team to learn better nutrition and shopping skills, helping her adapt to an often very different American lifestyle. She is thinking of ways to use her MLUC-donated sewing machine and supplies to make their Wayne apartment a more personal home. And she is also making new friends, meeting with an Afghan women’s support group this week.

Her daughters have been busy too, putting their growing English skills to good use. Visiting the doctor and dentist may not have been their favorite spring break activity—but it was a very important step for them.

They have enjoyed several play dates. They joined another Afghan refugee family for fun at a local park and hunted for Easter eggs with Carrie Nielsen’s daughters, Celia and Anya. On another outing to a local farm, they fed the goats and enjoyed homemade vanilla ice cream.

An additional opportunity for our family to make new American friends is planned for Sunday afternoon, May 22. Mark your calendar to join MLUC’s Afghan Cultural Celebration. Contact coordinators Trish Brandon and Teresa Zink for more information or to get involved.

In the News: This Week’s Afghan Headlines

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

“More Afghan evacuees in Philly now finding homes” begins a front-page story in the April 7 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “even as resettlement collides with the housing crisis.” The article highlights the obstacles facing refugee families looking for new homes in our area. But the reporter cites two bright spots, including MLUC: “Today more evacuees are finding places to live, sometimes in unexpected places. Bryn Mawr Presbyterian welcomed a family to live in its parish house and the Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon is providing a two-bedroom apartment in Wayne for a family of four.” Leanne Miller-Rush led our difficult-but-successful search for a Main Line home. Here is the link to the entire article (which requires a subscription).

Month of Ramadan Now Being Observed

In addition to our Passover Seder planned for Saturday and our traditional Easter Sunday service, MLUC has a direct connection to a major Islamic observance this year. Our Afghan family is halfway through Ramadan, which began April 2 and ends May 2. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Ramadan commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation and is a time of reflection and community. Ramadan’s primary practices include fasting from sunrise to sunset (which Mohammad is observing), charity, and prayers. The holiday Eid will mark the end of Ramadan and celebrate the return of normal eating, drinking, and daily life.

Villanova Market Place Welcomes Refugees

The price was definitely right last week when A visited a market organized by St. Thomas of Villanova Church and other local Catholic groups. Household goods, food, clothes, toys, and more were all free for the taking. A enjoyed being able to shop for items she particularly wanted, while the children had fun picking out stuffed animals.

Time for Celebration

What? An Afghan Cultural Celebration with Afghan information, food, music, and fellowship
When? Sunday afternoon, May 22
Where? Main Line Unitarian Church
Who? Our Afghan family and MLUC members and friends
How to get involved? Talk to Trish Brandon or Teresa Zink, who are organizing the festivities.

Afghan Food for Thought

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

To recognize the friendship between our Afghan family and the wider community, as well as to honor Afghan culture, MLUC will hold an Afghan cultural celebration Sunday, May 22, at the church. It will be an afternoon of special food, fun, and fellowship. Please let the coordinators, Trish Brandon and Teresa Zink, know if you are interested in being part of this special all-church event.

In the meantime, as so many of us continue volunteering and donating to our Afghan refugee family, there are some important guidelines for service work. Key to every social justice effort is establishing a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship characterized by responsibility, accountability, and respect.

Remember, one-way charity can erode human dignity. So exchange is better than giving when there is no crisis. This means thrift-store shopping is probably better than outright gifts and a food co-op better than a free-food pantry.

Unhealthy relationships may follow this progression:

  • Give once and you elicit appreciation
  • Give twice and you create anticipation
  • Give three times and you create expectation
  • Give four times and it becomes entitlement
  • Give five times and you establish dependency

Our team leaders who have been working with MLUC volunteers continuously ask the family where help is needed. They would like us to consider unintended consequences of our involvement. Will a well-intentioned handout hinder self-sufficiency? If we empower, rather than enable, our efforts can be mutually constructive.

Doing with, not for, enhances dignity and relationship. An effective helper should not be a caretaker who assumes responsibility the “helpee” is capable of shouldering. Instead, each of us can be a cheerleader, an encourager, a coach, a connector.

As we work with M, A, H, and S, also remember to listen to what is not being said. Observe, use your intuition and pay attention to what they may be reluctant to reveal for a variety of reasons. Keep the conversation going so we all learn on this journey to make our community and the world a better place for us all.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is one of the beautiful compensations in this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Amen!

Upbeat Update

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

With so many in our MLUC community pitching in to sponsor our Afghan refugee family, the good news continues.

Doctor appointments are being scheduled . . . the Radnor School District is providing culturally appropriate meals for kindergartener H . . . M has passed his written driver’s test (a key step in getting his license to expand his employment options) . . . A is walking preschooler S to nearby Assumption Academy . . . and their apartment is definitely fully furnished.

Financial independence continues to be a top priority. To help, M is supplementing his regular Target job with some extra work. Volunteers are still needed to coach M and A in how to do economically smart American shopping and to find better bargains for healthy foods to stretch their budget. If you’d like to help with nutrition advising or shopping, please contact Eileen Andrews, Nuala Carpenter, or Barbara Weber.

To recognize the friendship between our Afghan family and MLUC and the wider community and to honor Afghan culture, we will hold an Afghan cultural celebration Sunday, May 22 at the church. It will be an afternoon of special food, fun, and fellowship. Coordinators Trish Brandon and Teresa Zink would like to know if you’re interested in being a part of this special all-church event.

Until then, many thanks!

 

Helping Hands and Loving Hearts

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Our Afghan refugee team continues to grow as we help our family settle into their new home and new lives.

Thanks to the educational leadership of Barbara Weber, our youngest family member is enrolled in daycare classes. The Assumption Academy in Strafford, a diverse and welcoming Christian preschool, generously provided tuition and uniforms. With both girls now in school, S and kindergartener H are proudly learning their ABCs and English, with extra help from MLUC’s ESL tutoring team.

Two new team leaders joined the effort last week. Rosemary Fitzgerald will head up health-care needs. Eileen and Jeff Moran will coordinate shopping and spending efforts.

Others who would appreciate more helping hands include Carol Hillman, who leads the financial literacy team. Her volunteers will assist our family as they become financially empowered, learning to use a checkbook, balancing a bank account, taking advantage of government programs, and more. And people are also needed by Frank Weber’s driving team to help parents M and A learn to use public transportation.

To applaud all these helpers as well as our Afghan family’s extraordinary efforts, an all-church cultural celebration is being planned for Sunday, May 22.  Mark your calendar and look for more information in the days ahead from coordinators Trish Brandon and Teresa Zink.

If you would like to join in any of these efforts, please reach out to the team leaders or coordinators Nuala Carpenter and Eileen Andrews.

MLUC members have been extraordinarily generous with donations of money and goods. But a few gently used (not new) items would still be appreciated. They include:

  • clothing (girls spring/summer and men’s extra-large shirts and 38” waist pants), and
  • sewing supplies and fabric.

We can’t say thank you enough!

 

Together We Transform Lives

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

As we’ve reached out to sponsor our Afghan refugee family this year, we’ve transformed their lives and ours.

In less than a month, they have settled in their Wayne apartment…the father has a new job…the girls are starting school. It’s been a very hectic but fulfilling time. And anyone who has been part of the process shares the excitement of these new beginnings.

MLUC’s six-month formal commitment to assist M, A, H and S will continue through the end of this church year. Until then, new ways we can help them rebuild their lives will arise. For example, donations needed this week include gently used (not new):

• Girls spring and summer clothing (ages 3 ½ and 5 ½) for school and play, and

• Sewing supplies and fabric to accompany the already gifted sewing machine.
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There are new hands-on opportunities as well:

• People with medical backgrounds to form a health-care team,
• Volunteers interested in joining Frank Weber’s driving team to help the family learn to use public transportation, and
• Members who would like to organize an all-church Afghan cultural celebration with Trish Brandon and Teresa Zink.

To find out more about any of these needs, please contact team project leaders or coordinators Eileen Andrews, Nuala Carpenter and Barbara Weber.

But our informal relationship with our Afghan family need never end. So now is the time to make lasting memories as together we transform lives through love, service and our welcoming faith.

 

New Job, New School

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Afghan family we are sponsoring continues to get settled into their apartment as they learn English and about life in the US. M started working at Target this week and A and the children went on a play date with another Afghan family that lives In Bryn Mawr, The family hopes to join us for worship this Sunday, March 6.

This week an excited H started kindergarten! The Radnor Township School District provided a very warm welcome to the family. Her Wayne Elementary School English Language teacher met her at the bus stop and made sure she had a seat with a friendly child. Backpack, lunch box and other school supplies were provided. The report was, “she had a fantastic day!”

Many Ways to Say “Welcome”

Wednesday, February 23, 2022
During the past few weeks, MLUC has found many ways to greet our Afghan refugee family. These include donations of all kinds . . . numerous volunteers with helping hands . . . and, this Sunday, a chance to say “Welcome” face-to-face.
M, A, H, and S are very eager to meet their new American friends and have asked to attend a service.
Please remember that this family has experienced an arduous transition. After spending about four months on a Wisconsin military base and weeks in a Philadelphia hotel with the Nationalities Service Center, they just settled into their new Wayne apartment this month. So it would be easy for them to feel overwhelmed.
To make the process as comfortable as possible, our culture awareness team (Barbara Weber, Trish Brandon, and Teresa Zink) has put together information to help us as we interact more and more. A link to their guidelines and etiquette document is included with this article. We urge you to take time to read and digest it—especially if you will be at church this Sunday.
Our resettlement team has been busy in the many ways needed to start a new life in a new country. Regular ESL tutoring, trips to the doctor, job interviews, financial counseling, school registration, and rides to a local mosque are just some of the assistance we’ve been offering. Some of the planning and preparation needed for all these activities took place last Sunday for the driving team when a fire department safety representative visited MLUC to give a car-seat demonstration and hands-on help with the equipment.
MLUC donors have been extremely generous in furnishing the family’s new apartment and providing a wide array of items to make it a real home. A especially appreciated the most recent gift of a sewing machine. Anyone who has any sewing accessories at home not being used—thread, scissors, good fabric, etc.—may bring them to church for her. (Please, only recycled items—no new purchases.)
MLUC families have donated a large and varied collection of children’s supplies. Because we have storage issues, we ask that you please hold off on any further gifts of toys or books for the time being.
We will offer other opportunities to say hello to our newest family. In the meantime, if you have any ideas or want to help, feel free to contact Nuala Carpenter or Eileen Andrews.

Stone Soup Afghan Style

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Once upon a time there was a hungry family who only had a big pot of water with a stone to cook. But soon their neighbors added a carrot…some chicken…a potato or two and they had a delicious meal.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, another family fled their home in Afghanistan without even a cooking pot. But their new neighbors shared their possessions, time, and money to create a new home for them.

This week family settled into their Wayne apartment with the help of many MLUC volunteers and our Nationalities Service Center partner. They have been busy learning to shop, connecting with a mosque, opening a bank account, finding new doctors and taking care of all the other important details of life in a new country.

Our congregation has visited them daily with lots of help such as rides, English lessons, and employment counseling.  A behind-the-scenes team has also helped with many other needs, including the technology required to coordinate these activities and cultural orientation.  In return, our refugee family has provided traditional Afghan hospitality of tea and naan.  They have also expressed their deep gratitude to MLUC and are eager to meet us face-to-face.

Our church school classes in particular are getting ready to greet the two children. They heard about Afghan refugees last Sunday and are learning some Pashto words to make them feel at home.

In the meantime, there are a few more items needed by the family. Please click here for the sign up genius link and make arrangements with Nuala Carpenter or Eileen Andrews.

Together we can make a wonderful pot of stone soup!

From Kabul to Wayne: Moved In At Last

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Our Afghan refugee family was finally able to unpack and settle into their American home Wednesday morning. They were all smiles and very eager to get started with their new lives.

The family includes the father, mother and two girls. They were greeted by Nuala Carpenter and Eileen Andrews, as well as Rev. Dave and volunteer Debby Smith, who brought a hot Afghan-inspired meal to welcome them.

Thanks to all the many other donors and volunteers at MLUC, working with our Offering Outreach partner Nationalities Service Center, it felt like home right away.  They found the apartment fully furnished and stocked with food, linens and all the other necessities (as well as a few extras like toys for the kids.)

In the weeks ahead, MLUC refugee teams will be working with our family in the many areas it takes to begin a new life.  They tell us their first priorities are getting the girls in school, learning English and finding jobs.  In the meantime, they also are learning about shopping in American stores, finding doctors and all the other requirements of their new country.

Stay tuned for more news and ways you can get involved.  And for everything everyone has done so far, “manana” (thank you in Pashto).