by Dalia Chaif
I often reflect on my resistance and parents’ persistence to connect us to our heritage, as I now realize they know it is best for us. My parents knew the endless opportunities that come from respecting cultures and being able to communicate in multiple languages.
For example, my family built a school in Lebanon called “Safe Spaces Lebanon” for Syrian and refugees who are unable to receive an education. They were able to do this with the support of Methodist ministers and local non-government organizations. My brother and I worked at the school and with the children this past summer. It gave us an entirely new perspective on our own lives and how much our parents have sacrificed to get us to where we are today. These children showed us what true resilience means.
We go back and visit and have created a special bond of language and learning. One of the children who exemplifies that bond is a 15-year-old boy named Mouwaffak. When he first came to Safe Spaces Lebanon, he did not read or write and showed aggressive behavior. Now, the teachers say he is one of the brightest students in his class, always problem-solving and following instructions. The last time we spoke, he said in Arabic, “I did not realize how important it was to learn English, because I felt that it was unnecessary. Then I started attending Safe Spaces, and I understood how vital it was. It gives me access to learn about science, math, and numbers, preparing me for international business in the future.” Learning a language bridges the gap in both directions, and can create opportunities for anyone: a high school student preparing for college, or a young Syrian refugee chasing the dream of an unthreatened life.
Therefore, with the most appreciation, gratitude, and sincerity, I say,
“Shukran mama wa baba. Shukran jazeelan.”
(Thank you, mom and dad. Thank you so much.)