The following was written by one of our Cultural Companions – Diana. She and her family wrote about their experience going to the Seattle Aquarium with a refugee family who had arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo via Mozambique.
In early February, World Relief invited our family to join up with the Muhammad family and another volunteer Francoise for a visit to the Seattle Aquarium. Francoise and I had been meeting with Nguza and Mujinga and their 8 children for a few months, and I had wanted my girls to meet their children – there were age similarities to ease the meeting and my girls were very curious about the family I had talked about after my visits to their Kent apartment.
The aquarium with its touch tank of bright sea anemones, octopus display and playful otters was a delightful venue for this meeting of curious but shy individuals. We all laughed and struggled to remember names properly. We took turns holding the toddlers and were impressed by the way older siblings held and guided younger siblings with such generous attitudes! We tried to ask “usual” questions of the school-aged children: What do you think of your school? What is your favorite subject? But these questions seemed very direct and were more difficult to answer than we intended. It was no surprise that Karumbu and Matemba answered math, a universal language for children who are already bi- and trilingual with Swahili, French and some Portuguese. Naweji enjoyed science. As the youngest children, Latifa, Yussra and Nassra were outgoing with our family and embraced the outing with exuberance that put us all at ease.
Afterward, outside the aquarium, we relaxed on the pier and enjoyed snacks, pictures and the stunning views across the Seattle waterway, taking in the ferries and seagulls. Conversation turned to job interviews and the realities of getting settled in the Northwest. Driving home, our family reflected on the challenges and adaptability necessary to resettle in such a different culture as the Pacific Northwest is from the East Coast of Africa. My girls felt the divide in language and the difficulty establishing lines of connection but we all felt the rewarding experience of just being together at the beginning of friendship.
If you and your family are interested in becoming Cultural Companions with new refugee families, we invite you to learn more about the program at http://worldreliefseattle.org/culturalcompanions/ and attend one of our upcoming trainings.