RVA Mag writer, Landon Shroder, shares the stories of the Congolese Community living here in Richmond. If you have not seen this yet, it is worth reading. A special thanks to Leslie Saul, refugee volunteer, for helping make this story happen!
Reflections of a ReEstablish Richmond Volunteer
Every week, ReEstablish Richmond has an army of volunteers who mentor families, make home visits, provide transportation to classes, and assist with childcare. Patricia Outland is one of these volunteers. What follows are her thoughts on why she chooses to devote time to working with ReEstablish Richmond.
I have always wanted to give back to the country that embraced my 15 year old grandmother, who arrived in NYC in 1915. A few years later, now married, her husband died, leaving her alone with 2 girls under 4. She made her way as a single mother shoveling coal into furnaces, cleaning tenement floors, hauling garbage, cooking, whatever it took to survive with them. She also became, with much pride, an American citizen.
Re-Establish Richmond gave me the opportunity to give back by referring me to an Afghani couple, Nazir, a US citizen, and his wife Masoda, a permanent resident seeking her citizenship. They had filled out a wrong form in the process for her and I met them to complete the right one. I was struck by Nazir's self-confidence and his facility with English and by Masoda's quiet presence. After finishing the forms, we met a week later to check on the packet. One document was missing and Nazir returned home to get it. After a few awkward moments Masoda and I began to talk. Real talk, girl talk, a "get" down schmooze. Beauty and make-up. Masoda is a makeup artist and showed me pictures of her "work," including her very American movie star looking sister. Then, we looked at pictures of her father and her siblings, including a 2 year old baby boy. Masoda's mother died after this baby was born. Masoda is 4 months pregnant, missing her mom more than ever. She has Nazir's very supportive kin here. But, it is not her mom. In a moment of silence we both began to tear up and looked at each other across the wide table that was like a symbolic cultural divide that separated us. However, we both found instead shared, tender, human territory, just on the cusp of those tears.
It does not get any better than this. Thank you, Re-establish Richmond.