This essay was written by my daughter, Zoë Fritz, after spending an evening in Clarkston, Georgia, in October, 2016.
I got to see Refuge: An Exhibit by Photographer Ezra Millstein on Saturday, October 22. They filled the old Refuge Coffee Company garage with 20″ x 30” photographs. There was Middle Eastern music and food. There were people from many different countries in one room.
I can’t believe I got to talk with the photographer! Ezra Millstein is the International Photographer for Habitat for Humanity. I asked him if the parents of the children he wants to take pictures of say “No, you can’t do that.” He said that doesn’t usually happen. He said that kids love the camera and their parents want people to know what they’re going through. He has a 5 month old daughter and wonders if that’s why he’s been taking pictures of so many other daughters around the world.
I really liked the piece with the man looking out his tent towards his old home. I’m sad he lost his home.
I like this picture with this little girl and her dad. It shows how such young people are affected by this time of turmoil and hardship. Such people are called “the lost generation” because of the amount of time they spend wandering, looking for a safe place to call home. They seem so scared, or too young to understand what is happening. Such things are very sad to me. I love small children, and don’t like to hear of any of them harmed.
Refugees in America have become more and more commonplace. Refugees are people who flee their countries of origin, because of terror or conflict in their homes. Remember, almost half of these eleven million people are children under the age of thirteen! (Here is an article my mom found: https://www.cato.org/blog/refugee-program-accepts-three-syrian-women-children-every-syrian-man )
Most of these people come from places like Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Myanmar, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. People leave these countries because of terrorism, violence, religious persecution, and war. Some settle down in Clarkston, Georgia (east of Atlanta) where they are welcomed by others who have lives like theirs.
Clarkston has a population of 7,791 people, a good half of which are refugees. This town was called “the most ethnically diverse square mile in the country.“ I’ve visited this place a lot, and it is very fun. Why people consider it a “rough” neighborhood, I have no idea. The people are generally very friendly. You can get food right next to Refuge Coffee Co. at Merhaba Shawarma. I don’t understand why more people don’t go there! Honestly, Manna, the owner, should open up a restaurant near where I live.
Some organizations that help refugees in my area are Refuge Coffee Company, World Relief Atlanta, New American Pathways, and Friends of Refugees. Refugee Coffee Company gives these people basic job training, a hope, and a future. It helps resettle people who would otherwise be unable to get a job anywhere else. To me, it is the best organization because not only does it help people as a whole (as I’ve described above), they make great drinks. My favorite is the Milk Shaker, because it is basically a non-thick milkshake. It’s a very good drink!
Some ways ordinary people can help refugees involve donating money, donating food, clothing, and basic hygiene supplies to organizations. You could volunteer your skills to help make homes for the refugees, you could volunteer your house to help these people in need. You can employ refugees, and host awareness meetings. Most of all, help them fit into a new culture. They need a lot of help if they’re going to become settled in a completely new country! Imagine how you’d feel. You’d be scared, worried, alone. Welcome them into your lives.
I’m glad I got to go to a place that was really fun with good food and good people. I learned a lot there. And I’d like to go back. I’d like to learn more about the exact circumstances that make people have to flee their homes. It makes me sad.
My parents are trying to figure out how we can help refugees when we live in a town that doesn’t have any. We might invite some refugees over for dinner. We might sell some pallet stars my brother makes and little painted houses my sister is making for a Christmas Market at Refuge Coffee Co. Leon, one of the Refuge Coffee Co. employees we met this summer, is trying to find his 4 children, they all got separated in the the Democratic Republic of Congo. We pray about that almost every morning. Maybe we can help him with the DNA tests and processing fees. We’ll see.
Wow. I (Aimee) just love reading Zoë’s reflections on that evening. I learn so much from my kids. I was surprised by the pictures she liked best, and the stats that crush her. Good things are happening in that brain and heart.
I’ve been down to Refuge Coffee Co. five times since we learned about them. And every time I go I feel happier and more hopeful. It’s not just because I got a great drink that wasn’t from Starbucks. I couldn’t articulate why, but Zoë did the night of Ezra’s photo exhibition.
I pulled Greta’s arm to prevent her from crossing the street without checking for traffic. She looked both ways, then at me, and asked, “Mom, are we in a bad neighborhood?“
I looked around at the cracked, sloping sidewalks, dead weeds, empty store fronts, and people that don’t look like they’re from Peachtree City, Georgia. I answered, “No, it’s not a bad neighborhood. It’s just a new neighborhood to us. It’s just different than what we’re used to.“
Zoë said, “I know. It is different. And I like it so much more. Here everyone is so kind and friendly and helpful. It’s not like this where we live.”
As we walked across the street I said, “You’re right. It does feel different here. I wonder if that’s because people here know they need each other? And when everyone knows they need help, everyone’s more willing to give help? I’m not sure. Where we live it’s not socially acceptable to need anyone. We have to act like we have it all together.”
“Yeah. I like it way better down here. Bye, Mom!“ and she ran into the crowd, smiling with a skip in her step.
We were able to get one of Ezra’s prints that night. Once it’s framed and hung, I hope it will remind my daughter that we live in a world where we need each other, that’s is okay to need each other, and that because of God’s great love, we can help each other.
You are loved.
- Our 2016 Family Compassion Focus – why my kids do this kind of thing
- Refuge Coffee Company – our first visit this summer
- Seeking Refuge – World Changer Wednesday – interview with co-author of a very practical book
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.