Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Food and Music Connects Students and Refugees

In January, we had a large group of volunteers with us from Nebraska Wesleyan University. They harvested hundreds of pounds of produce, made many new friends, and even introduced us to a few individuals they had met while dropping food off at apartment complexes. 

To celebrate their achievements, our talented volunteer, Roy, cooked a delicious dinner for the the end of their visit. I was very excited to be able to get to know some of the students better, and celebrate all the work they had done throughout the week. Since I wasn't involved in organizing the event, I was able to spend time with people. I was grateful for this change of pace, since I am often so busy with last minute details that I don't take the time to relax and enjoy people's company. I knew I was going to have fun, but I could not have anticipated the tremendous success of this event.

After spending time at dinner discussing New Years celebrations around the world (apparently a big deal in Burundi, and a time of year when everyone comes together), we moved into a common room and began making music. One of Iskashitaa's Burundian members can pick up just about any instrument and begin playing and singing along. Lots of students picked up drums, and one of our Iraqi friends, upon seeing that there were no more drums, began using two oranges as a percussion instrument. Soon everyone was singing. It was an incredible moment of people connecting through music, and it was especially dear to my heart since I studied music in college. I was also struck by the extent to which people had developed deep relationships with others from around the world. People had formed friendships across boundaries because of a shared love of gardening, for example, and Iraqi and Egyptian refugees were able to connect with a Sudanese refugee through their common language of Arabic. 

I left the evening thinking how profoundly simple that dinner was, and yet how it was exactly what we needed to be doing. And it all happened so organically. I am constantly amazed at how people will come together if we simply give them an opportunity to do so.

Heather Gerrish
Harvesting Coordinator
Iskashitaa Refugee Network

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