Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spend Time with a Refugee Family

One of the greatest things that you can do to help a refugee family is simply to spent time with them. One of our volunteers, Ron Bayes, recently took fourteen refugees to the Grand Canyon in a rented 15-passenger van. Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

We assembled at the apartment complex where many of the group lived and began our journey on Friday, at around 6:30pm, as many of the participants were required to work that day. We got to Flagstaff around 11:00pm and took a quick tour of the massive house where we were to stay. The owner of the mansion-like home is my friend of many years, Tom, a Flagstaff general contractor. While Tom and his family were absent, he was generous enough to allow all of us to stay at his luxurious home and use all of its many amenities.

Saturday morning, we awoke to the sun and the cool Flagstaff morning air. Many enjoyed the morning by wandering the spacious premises or hanging out in the lush manicured backyard overlooking a large pond. Some others performed meditation or yogic morning rituals. The women made a savory breakfast, all participated in the cleanup, then we hit the road for the Grand Canyon. The route from Flagstaff to the south entrance of the Canyon was stunning. In Tusayan, the town just outside the park entrance, we watched a gorgeous panoramic IMAX movie highlighting the many treasures within the Canyon. The group could hardly contain their excitement to get into the national park.

It's always a pleasure to show people the Grand Canyon for the first time, marveling at this larger-than life chasm cut by the mighty Colorado River and geologic upheavals over many eons. Using a combination of our rental van and the park shuttle, we made many stops to several spectacular overlooks.

On the way back to Flagstaff, we took a detour to behold Sunset Crater, stopping at a beautiful volcanic overlook to take pictures and play amidst the volcanic rocks and sand. Once we reached Flagstaff, I showed the group several sites and took them to a popular overlook up near Lowell Observatory. Eventually, we all retired back at Tom's house, each person a bit tired from being in the sun for most of the day. Through group effort, we ate a satisfying Nepalese meal and cleaned up, played some billiards, talked, and went to bed early.

Sunday morning, we once again awoke to the Flagstaff sun, and had a relaxing breakfast. After packing up and giving the house a quick cleaning, we were off to Sedona. The weather was perfect for the meandering drive through Oak Creek Canyon, where we stopped to gather some refreshing spring water from a lesser-known well along the side of the road. Continuing our journey, we stopped in uptown Sedona to get some ice cream and admire the sculptures from local artists. On to Airport Mesa, where we could see a panorama of Red Rock formations in all their glory, then through the Village of Oak Creek to view even more spectacular Red Rock natural sculptures.

Arriving in Tucson early in the evening, we bade or farewell to one another, and recovered from a very fast but enjoyable trip. Not a single person was left behind, injured, or worse. It seems that everyone had a great time, experienced new places, and enjoyed the company of the rest of the travelers. What a beautiful adventure!
I hope this information is helpful and encourages other volunteers to share their time in this way. It was incredibly rewarding and has added depth to my relationship with many of these refugee families!

Thanks to the Adhikari family for help with organizing the trip.