Getting involved starts with learning. Being curious—about people and their stories—inclines us towards our neighbor. We want to live in a community where we are hopeful about, not fearful of each other.
We encourage you to think about how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting our vision of building a community of neighbors, and how the crisis affects immigrants and refugees. Start by reflecting on the role immigrants are playing in America's response to COVID-19. Did you know that immigrants make up 28.7% of our America's physicians and 36.5% of America's home health aides? Learn that and more from the New American Economy's well-curated resources on Immigration and COVID-19. We also recommend the Migration Policy Institute’s thorough backgrounder, Crisis within a Crisis: Immigration in the United States in a Time of COVID-19. Finally, we should all reflect on how the politicization of the immigration debate is dividing us amidst the crisis: see comments from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the CATO Institute, Church World Services, and the Interfaith Immigrant Coalition.
In addition, longer-term and beyond the crisis, think about the perspective that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie advocates in her great TED Talk,
The Danger of a Single Story. This TED Talk – with over 19 million views – highlights the ways that we all benefit from a variety of perspectives of life, society, and community. Then continue with Ms. Adichie's Americanah – our next book recommendation – for
[a] knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. . . . A marvel. (NPR)
We also encourage you to read Imbolo Mbue's book Behold the Dreamers, considered by many to be one of the top narratives of the contemporary immigrant experience – an Oprah pick, PEN/Faulkner award-winner, NY Times/Washington Post best book of the year, etc. This was our first recommended book in 2018! FCCPS Superintendent Peter Noonan made the book one of his recommended summer reads in June 2019, and we brought Ms. Mbue to Falls Church in September 2019. She spoke powerfully about Immigration and the American Dream as well as her personal experiences living in Falls Church, before 250 people at two public talks, spoke with FCCPS educators and community leaders over lunch, and toured the Falls Church Festival (see photo at left!). Enjoy a podcast review of the book from our podcasting media partner Three Way by Falls Church resident and Three Way creator Erin Keating here – and also consider selecting this if you are part of a book club.
Learning is not limited to adults. Our second recommended book is for young readers. Do you have a child age 10-15? We strongly recommend the book Refugee by Alan Gratz, who graciously agreed to join us by videoconference to speak to the community on October 28, 2020. See here for some great resources that we have brought together, to support and inspire young readers of Refugee! And it’s our hope that learning inspires action and service. We have a great, hands-on opportunity that is perfect for a group of friends or families who want to work together on a service project. Working with and under the supervision of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a group of volunteers will furnish in full a new apartment for a refugee family. Volunteers are responsible for (1) collecting and storing essential household furniture, goods, and food, (2) transporting these items to the apartment, and (3) unpacking and creating a welcoming home for the family. IRC staff will be available at all times to provide guidance and support and answer questions. All interested volunteers must attend a virtual orientation. Learn more about this program and register for an orientation here. It may be some time before Welcoming Falls Church groups can welcome a refugee family because of COVID constraints, but the pandemic will end – and our welcoming spirit is a patient one. Let us know if you're interested in the acute crisis of refugee policy and caring for refugees locally – we will connect you with others and make resources available for you and your family or group of volunteers.
Learning is a great way to start, but we also hope you consider how we might serve in the community and live better together, to build a community of neighbors. Also, if you've not already done so, please provide us your contact information to get involved in Welcoming Falls Church.