Margit Note’s: We are so thrilled to have Sloane Davidson guest-curate TueNight’s Welcome issue. As the founder of Hello Neighbor, Sloane works tirelessly for the needs of refugee families, helping them acclimate to their everyday lives here in the U.S., by connecting them with neighbors and mentors in their new neighborhoods. So she is particularly apt to edit this edition all about the many paths and journeys to becoming an American citizen. Here’s Sloane:
I have the immense privilege to spend a lot of time with refugee families. As the founder of a nonprofit that supports recently resettled refugees through mentorship, I can often find myself sitting on the floor playing with children, profusely thanking moms for their tea and hospitality, or shaking hands and showing my respect to elders.
But my life wasn’t always like this.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I felt a draw for my unborn child to be around extended family. And so after 16 years of living away, I moved back to Pittsburgh, my beloved hometown, and was of course readily wrapped in my family’s embrace. In my highly hormonal state, I started obsessing over the dichotomy between my experience and those of refugees who are forced to flee their homes, often leaving behind their own extended family support system.
I’ve been a lifelong volunteer and donor to causes I championed; I’ve worked for non profits and sat on boards. I had thought nothing of donating to support women and girls across the world for years—but what about those global citizens who are living right around the corner? How had I not yet had my eyes open to them?
That’s how I became in many ways “patient zero” for the program I run today, inviting a refugee family home for dinner. The meal, aside from changing my life, became the framework for what we do at Hello Neighbor, the organization I founded in 2017. I In two years we’ve matched 95 refugee families from 13 different countries with caring neighbors who guide and support them in their new lives. I often hear that Hello Neighbor is a beacon of hope for those seeking something good in the world.
I’m here to share with you stories of five women who are beacons as well. Women whose families could have been your neighbors. Some who came to this country as small children, or decided to seek American citizenship later in life, or struggled once they were here to simply fit in.
Welcoming can mean a lot of things. And you certainly don’t need permission from anyone to get started. Hold space for those who pray, look, and dress differently than yourself. Push your local schools, hospitals, employers and landlords to value diversity and inclusion, instead of brushing aside people with an accent. Be the kind of neighbor you’d want to have if you were forced to leave everything behind and start anew.
Here are our Welcome edition stories:
- Benish Shah shares a middle school mehndi mishap
- Carla Zanoni passes as a Latina
- Penny Codrington remembers the invisible helpers
- Robin Alperstein cries in court
- Carla Raich finally gets her citizenship
Enjoy these fantastic stories.