Last month, I got to help sort flatware and make beds in preparation for a family’s arrival. This month, I sat in a breezy park on a Tuesday afternoon and watched Courtney, our medical case worker, help Bhutanese women compare the amount of sugar in various types of food. Almost all of my work as the Community Engagement VISTA is focused on building programs that will increase our community presence and engage more volunteers. While I do love this outreach work, it is undeniably satisfying to be able to interact directly with the refugees we serve.
The Tuesday afternoon support group was started last year after the Center for Disease Control published a report that noted shockingly high rates of suicide among elderly Bhutanese refugees. Strong neighborhood and community bonds serve as support systems as refugees navigate the often bewildering social, economic, and governmental systems of their adopted country. This group is composed of about eight ‘regulars,’ ranging from elementary school girls to great-grandmothers, and meets weekly. Every week, Courtney has a different activity that is meant to foster conversation and increase their comfort level with their new daily lives. Once she had them make and race paper airplanes, once they practiced the name of the states, and once they took a field trip to ARTvocacy, where they sold knit goods.
I really appreciated the opportunity to spend some time with these women who, instead of throwing up their hands at the difficulty of their new lives, have decided to stake their claim, and make Tukwila home.