The Saga Of America’s Newest Refugees
Afghans have arrived in the U.S. — what are you going to do?
I am in a room full of Afghan people.
Individuals and families. Children, lots of children. Grandmothers and grandfathers.
It is packed. I am at the University of Maryland, the first public university to start a program dedicated to helping to settle refugees in America. I work here and this is our project.
There are speakers one after another explaining to them that everyone is here to help. This program was put together for them. There are professionals and professional organizations offering and organizing help, relocation services. Lutheran Social Services is here as is Albert Einstein’s famous organization, The International Rescue Committee (IRC).
We want to be “your beacon of light,” University of Maryland, President Darryl Pines says. Pines is President of the University of Maryland. His leadership is captivating to me. I am, on some level, in awe of what he is doing on many levels.
Dr. Pines says he hopes that the Afghan people, the people in the room, the families, and their children especially, not only accept this token of goodwill, but one day the hope is, some of the children will graduate from the University of Maryland. He says this is part of the school’s mission.
Others talk about all the effort that went into this and that this is the beginning of that help. We are in it for the long term, the speakers repeat. The speakers speak in English. As soon as they finish talking in English, they hand the microphone to someone who translates it into Pashto, and then someone else, who says the same in Dari/Fari.
I can tell who in the room speaks which languages because when the language they speak is spoken, they smile and pay attention closer. They clap. They understand what is said.
There is food. It is food like they might eat back home, or close to it. It is from a carry-out called Krazi Kabob. It is Pakistani cuisine. They have kept it simple.
There are only two dishes served — Chana Masala and rice, or Tikki Bowl, with chicken or falafel. There is plenty of food and water.