“When we share our stories… it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.” -Janine Shepherd
It was just a quick little Facebook blurb, buried between photos of a friend’s new baby, and the vacation post of another. “Volunteers needed to photograph children who are refugees at upcoming event.” The organization in need was the local non-profit MyStory Matters, which compiles interviews and photographs into beautiful albums which are given to each child to “promote healing, inspire hope, and celebrate courage…by engaging them in a process that helps them reflect, recount, record, and reframe their stories.”
A few weeks later, towing lights, camera, props, and backdrops in my little green wagon, I walked down the hall of a typical looking brick middle school in Salt Lake City. After checking in I got set up at my assigned station. My job that day was to create photograph’s for the “I Dream” page that would go in each child’s book.
As I took a few minutes to talk with each child, I quickly realized how big their dreams are. After finishing up for the day I considered all that had been shared with me. A local leader recently posed the question, “What if their story were my story?” I started wondering, “What if this child were my child?” What would I hope and need from a new community where everything from the language and dress to the educational expectations was foreign to me?
It’s simple. I would want–and need–kindness, inclusion, guidance and support. I returned home to search for additional opportunities to assist the children I had met. I did not have to look far to locate fantastic local organizations engaged in working with youth who have come to this country as refugees. Opportunities offered included things such as purchasing an item off an Amazon wish list, gathering a group of 12-18 year old girls to play one volleyball game with a team of girls who are refugees, sewing teachers to help at a Saturday clinic to teach women who are refugees to sew.
The opportunities to serve are varied and numerous. As we work together to compassionately provide necessary support for children who are refugees, we help shape their future story, and in so doing, write a new chapter in our own.