This fall, while my fiance Marty began law school at Tulane in New Orleans, I stayed in Vermont for a few more months, continuing to work and wrapping stuff up for our move. Even though I was busy and slightly stressed, I actually did have more free time than normal just being a temporary single person. The time allowed me to take more yoga classes, visit old friends and volunteer.
I had the opportunity to take some photography for The University of Vermont Medical Center, who partners with the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) each year to host a health and safety fair for new Americans. This fair provides families with free car seats, bicycle helmets, teaches them how to access health care, and instructs families on household poisons and hazards they might not even be aware of due to language and being new to the country.
The UVM Medical Center, like many hospitals, has experienced a change in their patient demographics other the last few decades. They are able to reach these new communities by partnering with current organizations that are run by the leaders of the immigrant community. I think it’s fantastic and I am happy to be a part of it.
This is the kind of work that I am most passionate about.
I was an exchange student in Denmark for a year when I was 18. In addition to being in a new country without understanding the language or culture, I also spent a lot of time with other students from all over the world. It was amazing to see so many different cultural attitudes and traditions, and at the same time realize how much we all have in common with each other.
Without the kindness and generosity of strangers and people I barely knew, that year would have been very hard (even as an American exchange student participating in a temporary program, purely for personal development aka partying and having fun).
When I meet people who have traveled here seeking refuge, my heart goes out to them. It is very hard being in a new country. Many of these families came from extreme poverty in their home countries, and others have spent years in, or have grown up in, refugee camps.
I am happy Burlington welcomes new Americans. They add to the vibrancy of the community.