When I (Crystal) was growing up, I shared a room with my older sister, Stacy. As teenagers we were desperate to have our own space. We’d always try to get my parents to convert the attic into another bedroom, but it never happened. Honestly, she suffered more than I did, because I was the messy one. But all that living together gave us a good foundation for friendship. Our bond as sisters has lasted through our time in the same bedroom, our time in separate cities, and eventually time apart in separate foreign nations. Ironically, we have both returned to live in Amarillo after years overseas. Although unexpected, it has been a sweet blessing to be in close proximity again for this season of our lives.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on this bond of sisterhood. It truly does transcend cultural boundaries. I’ve recently been able to witness two separate interviews involving three different sets of sisters. These sets of sisters—who walk through life together, enduring hardships, encouraging each other, and striving for one success together—are beautiful reminders of the treasures of having community and support in every part of the journey.
First of all, we had the honor of hosting an interview with 3 Afghan sisters who resettled in Amarillo with their family 20 years ago. These resilient women have since learned to thrive and succeed here as medical students, business owners and helpful citizens in our city. Their story, which they so graciously shared with us, gives insight into what fleeing Afghan families might experience if they eventually make their way to Texas.
We also had the privilege of interviewing the directors of our two local resettlement agencies in Amarillo about the need for donations and volunteers, as well as what to expect locally with the Afghan refugee crisis. If you missed these interviews on our Zoom meeting last week, you’ll find that interview at the link above as well. To find out how you can be involved in helping Afghans, you can reply to this email, or contact Refugee Services of Texas or Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle directly.
I also recently interviewed Grace, a new mentor in our Face to Face program. After an initial 1-on-1 training with Jennifer, our mentorship coordinator, Grace was ready! She was paired with Lay and Ler, twin sisters from the Karen ethnic group of Myanmar. Grace was excited when she learned that she would be meeting with women who were her exact same age, and was even more elated to discover that these two sisters interacted together and cared for each other much like her and her own sisters!
Grace, Lay and Ler meet weekly to practice English together, and have enjoyed spending time together at this year’s Panhandle Refugee Celebration and Karen Martyr’s Day. Like many people in Amarillo, Grace had previously had some interactions with people of various cultures through work, but this was her first time to connect in a friendship across cultural boundaries. Her biggest takeaway so far in this adventure? “It’s given me perspective and brought me a lot of joy!”
Maybe you have been considering signing up to be a mentor in a one-on-one relationship, but are scared to take the plunge. I asked Grace what advice she has if this is the case. “Don’t be afraid to try something a little outside of your comfort zone. When you’re in the middle of the situation, what seemed scary before might just end up being exciting and interesting instead! Those cultural barriers that are there don’t seem so big anymore.”
Ready to dive in? We’ll match you up with a local refugee who is wanting to connect, and we’ll give you the tools and resources you need to take your first steps across cultural boundaries. Some people teach English lessons, others meet and chat over coffee at Starbucks, and some go on hikes in Palo Duro Canyon. Whatever you choose to do together, we’re here to support you every step of the way!