In November, I noticed that a charity organization was looking for photographers to document a charity event for refugee families. I brushed over it quickly since I'm definitely not a photographer. But the request kept popping up. They were getting close to the event and it seemed like the need had not been filled. I reached out and told them that I'm not a photographer, but that I have a nice camera and if they didn't end up finding someone else that I would be happy to snap a few shots. They responded and asked me to come. I was a little terrified to tell the whole truth. After all, I really don't know much about photography. But I wanted to help and I was looking forward to the event.
I asked some questions in a Photography group on Facebook, prepped everything they suggested, and then went to the event with excitement.
I arrived with all my equipment and preparation only to throw it all out the window and just experience everything. The event was absolutely incredible. Lighthouse Charities had collaborated with a number of organizations and private parties to bring together Operation Lighthouse, an event where refugee families and individuals were brought in to receive clothing, bedding, dental exams, eye exams, books, food, and more. The event was huge. I was in awe at what a few individuals had accomplished by having a vision and working together to make it happen.
Lighthouse charities had also been working with a number of the refugee young women in a dance troupe to help them acclimate to life in the United States and give them something worthwhile to do.
A refugee man shared his story of leaving his war ravaged country after seeing many loved ones killed, arriving in America with practically nothing, and working his way through school with the support of organizations like Lighthouse Charities and giving individuals to obtain an advanced degree and become a CPA. He spoke of hope and healing as we all reach out in love to each other.
The children who attended were all able to visit with Santa and receive a unique gift based on their age and gender. The kids were so excited that they were inching closer and closer to Santa, leaving me such limited room that I was literally on the ground trying to capture a couple of the many special moments.
During the entire event I felt like I was truly walking among giants. The individuals who had put this event together were incredible. In one morning, over 500 refugees were provided for and loved. There was no judgement, no bigotry, no hate. And the true giants were the refugees themselves. Their stories were heartbreaking. Many had literally seen family members killed. Others had experienced exploitation at the hands of should-be protectors. Still others had left behind lucrative employment to save the lives of their children. And yet, they walked in with smiling faces. They received with gratitude everything that was given them. They had hope for their futures and desire to work to obtain that future. They were incredible.
My part in this event was so very small. But I was changed for the better for participating. Just being able to spend the morning talking with and getting to know such strong people had a profound affect on me. I hope that you will take the chance to get to know the refugees in your area. They are remarkable. They have suffered so much. Let's remember to ask ourselves "what if their story was our story?" and help to make a change.
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat;
I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink;
I was a stranger, and ye took me in;
Naked, and ye clothed me;
I was in prison, and ye came unto me...
Inasmuch as ye have done unto
one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done unto me.
--Matthew 25:35-36, 40