The Provo Cottage joined forces in December with others to gather household items for refugees from Afghanistan. That’s the condensed version of what they accomplished, but certainly not the complete story. They showcased this month’s tenet, “We are each unique and innately worthy of respect.” The tenet description adds, “… individual worth is not contingent on external factors, rather, we are inherently and naturally worthy of safety, goodness, love, and respect.” Those four vital commodities–safety, goodness, love, and respect–were infused in the “housewarming gifts” of kitchen appliances, rugs, bedding, dishes, and cleaning supplies generously given and the hospitality graciously offered by their new friends.
Holly Sweeten, the Cottage Aid Coordinator for Big Ocean, met some of these remarkable refugees from Afghanistan in her work with an NGO, Roots of Peace. Holly shared her feelings for these unique friends. “Over the course of many months I have had the honor of getting acquainted with a beautiful group of people from Afghanistan who have immigrated to Utah with their families. While it is very difficult for them to leave other family members behind, they bravely forge ahead, seeking for safety, security and a better education for their children.”
In December, Holly learned that a few of these families, new to the country, were in desperate need of household items. She spearheaded the effort and reached out to Carolina Allen from the Provo Cottage as well as members of congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Heatheridge Stake nearby. Many generously opened their hearts and purses to assist the families in need.
The project gathered momentum and volunteers like a giant snowball. Student government members at Centennial Middle School made fleece blankets for the families. Ann Takasaki, a Big Ocean board member, learned about it from Carolina. Ann’s niece, Melissa, read about it on Facebook and jumped in to include ten more relatives, including husbands and children. For this group, it culminated when Ann collected the donations from the Provo cottage members and met Holly and her carload of items and Melissa’s group and their contributions to deliver the precious cargo to Shukra and her family in the Salt Lake City area. Shukra, her husband, and three children had just come directly from Afghanistan which is unusual as most Mideastern refugees come to the United States via other countries to avoid being perceived as a threat.
Sweeta Hashemi, a refugee herself, served as interpreter for the group. Holly said, “I met Sweeta when I was working alongside an International NGO in Salt Lake City … Sweeta is a remarkable woman who came here to Utah, has been learning English, has learned to drive, gained employment, and is now helping other Afghan women navigate the Western culture. She is a tremendous help when it comes to interpretation as we serve these wonderful families.”
Sweeta in turn shares her feelings about her relationship with them. “I love to support my Afghan women and refugees. My dream is to help them.”
Ann was awed at the greatness of Shukra’s heart. “Shukra is a beautiful woman. Her daughter was the same age as our little kids (9?).” (Melissa and her children were so taken with the family that they returned later and enjoyed reading books and playing games together.)
Ann continued, “After we got everything into the apartment, Shukra asked through Sweeta if we could stay and have tea. We all sat down together in her living room. She got into some boxes and brought out sectioned plates and filled them with pecans, pistachios, almonds, and cashews. She made us tea and probably used all the drinking vessels they had: a few mugs and some glasses. We sat and had this precious time with them. It was wonderful.”
The time was precious not because of external factors, but because each of these unique people shared and received respect as members of our global family, each one sharing unique gifts with love, compassion, and gratitude.