This past Sunday, my mom wanted to visit the family with me. She got a bunch of clothes, some used and some new gathered for them. We took over four big bags of clothes, blankets, coats, and some essentials such as toilet paper, toothpaste, pasta, juices, and some decorative stuff like plants. My family is in dire need of the essentials. They receive food stamps, but no cash. They don’t even own a TV. The parents are getting bored at home when the daughters are in school. My mom said she will also buy them a TV. My mom is really connecting with them because she knows what it feels like to move to a country and start all over. We used to be in their shoes many years ago, but we still remember the struggles we went through. We moved to London as refugees from Iraq. We were given a house with no furniture or carpet. We used to lay down newspapers on the floor and eat. The money we got from the government was not enough to buy food, essentials and pay the bills. We were struggling and suffering for many years. My refugee family has no family here, and that is why my mom really wants to help them in any way she can. She also told their story to all my family. My aunt gave me money to give to them. She was very generous. She said she will keep helping them too and pitch in with my mom to buy them a TV. The family was extremely excited and thankful to receive the stuff. I saw that they felt more welcomed now, as they saw strangers willing to help them. To us, it is extra stuff we don’t use, but to them, they are essentials, that otherwise would not afford to buy on their own.
Our third visit:
The father wasn’t at the family’s home because he was at work and wouldn’t be back until later that night. So we spent time with the mother and two kids. We discussed a lot of things, among them jobs. She told us that she had recently gone to a “job fair”, but only one possible employer had shown up. There was another woman who was interested in the job position. The mother has often told us of her need to find a job soon. So I was surprised when she said that she had let the other woman take the job. She told us that the woman’s husband also doesn’t work, and since the mother’s husband does have a source of income, she felt that it was right to give her the opportunity. My admiration for her doubled upon hearing this. We also talked about visiting the family on Saturday, when the father would be home, so that we could all celebrate a Hindu holiday together. The mother told Alyssa and I that she would dress us in saris, and as I had never worn on before, I was excited.
We helped the daughter with her homework for a bit, and after she finished she taught (or rather, tried to teach) us how to dance to Nepalese music. Alyssa and I gave up after a bit. But it’s nice to see that the daughter is becoming more comfortable when we are around.
The fourth visit:
We brought the kids coloring books and crayons, which they seemed to enjoy a lot. As we all ate, the parents talked about their unease of living in such a bad neighborhood. There have been several instances of people knocking on their back door during the day and late at night. Thankfully nothing has happened yet, but we urged them to call the police if it happened again. They cannot get out of their lease, however, for several more months.
After we finished eating, we put on the Saris. The material was beautiful and colorful, and there was so much fabric! Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much blush put on me in my life. Nevertheless, that day was very special. I felt more connected with the family than ever and we spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures.
Last time we visited we asked our family if they wanted to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo that Sunday. They seemed happy to be asked, and the children seemed excited. We weren’t quite sure if they understood what we meant. The next time we went to visit though, they had many many questions about the zoo. I was happy that they had been able to formulate their questions and write them down.
The day of the zoo trip we went to their home, they were not ready yet, and started putting on their winter coats. We told them to put on lighter coats because it was nice out. We didn’t realize that they didn’t have lighter coats that fit them. They tried digging lighter coats out of this box of winter clothes, some fit, some didn’t. We were happy that in the end they all had both a lighter jacket and a winter jacket.
We were not sure if this was the first time going on the CTA, but the children seemed to enjoy it (except for the baby, she was too sleepy to enjoy the ride). The first thing we saw at the zoo was the seals, the family seemed thrilled to see him swimming and coming up for air. With every exhibit they would come up to Liz and I and ask about the animals. The children seemed to really love the snakes, crocodiles, seal, and monkeys especially. They loved the monkey house and gorilla house! It was great seeing them laughing and the children running around. The children loosened up with Liz and I a lot during this visit. The two boys would grab our hands and led us around the zoo, sometimes pulling us along. When we got to the goat petting zoo area, the older boy refused to go in to pet the goats. We had to persuade him to go, and Liz had to go in with the boys. Once they got in, they seemed to enjoy it!
Liz’s mom and dad came with us to the zoo and packed us all a lunch. The family seemed a little wary of the food, but things like fruit and chips they enjoyed! The children tried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the baby girl seemed to enjoy it, but not the elder two boys. The father seemed a little aloof during the zoo trip and lunch. He hang back behind a lot, and didn’t seem to enjoy the food much, but he was very willing to learn about the animals and he loved watching the gorillas.
All in all, this trip was a great learning experience, and the family seemed to love it! We also got many great photos of the family and plan to print them for them and frame them.
On a negative side note, Liz and I were waiting to get into the families apartment building (we had to sneak in when someone opened the door), with an immigrant woman from Africa and her child, two white men opened the door and left the building. The little girl sneaked in between the two men. One of the men flipped out saying “that these ******* foreigners are lucky we open the door for them! They don’t deserve this…etc.” This upset Liz and I to no end, and we hope the immigrants that entered the building in with us does not face this often.