Visiting Sifa and Her Family


Jon, Sifa and three of her children.

Today, bringing groceries to Sifa and her children, brought me back to being in India.

Outside their apartment door the rug was filled with eight pairs of shoes.  Inside the apartment was warm enough for bare feet, the furniture scarce and the walls bare.

The kids who were old enough to help bring in groceries made their way up and down the tall stoop with the plastic shopping bags Ali handed them from the van.  The smaller children stood around watching.

I felt bad tracking in snow and ice on the spotless floor,  but Ali told us it was okay.

One of Sifa’s daughter’s held the baby and the twins stood up on two of the chairs looking at everything we brought.

I stood next to  Sifa’s other teenaged daughter, asked her name and introduced myself.  She spoke little English so I took out my iPhone and started taking pictures of her and her brothers and sister.  I showed her the pictures and let her take a few herself.

I learned to do this when I was in India.  The girls I met there loved to have their pictures taken, posing with each other, then asking their friends to pose while they took a picture of them.  A simple way to communicate without a common spoken language.

Jon took notes the whole time we were there.  Trying to find out if there was anything they needed that he could get them  (boots for three of the kids and a winter coat for Sifa).

Sifa was in a refugee camp in Tanzania for 20 years.  Her first husband was killed there and her second husband is still there, trying to get to the United States to join her and their kids.  It’s not hopeful for him.

I can’t imagine what Sifa and her children have been though and how difficult it must be for them to navigate life in America.

Going to Sifa’s I was expecting more of a feeling of desperation.  But from the moment we walked into her home, I felt nothing but a loving warmth.  A sense of connection and ease.

I know this feeling is not the whole story, but I felt privileged to witness it and even feel a part of.

As we were leaving the grocery store, Ali tossed a bag of clementines into the shopping cart.  They were a big hit.  By the time we left everyone was eating one. Next time we’ll have to bring two bags.

Sifa’s son, one of the twins.


2 thoughts on “Visiting Sifa and Her Family

  1. Oh, Maria! This is so beautiful, so amazing. Thank you so much for writing about your and Jon’s work with the refugees. Thank you for taking their photos. Thank you for the story about the teenaged girls enjoying photos of themselves. Thank you for the comparison between these refugees and the people you met in India. It is such a joy and privilege to donate a little to the wonderful work of the heart that you and Jon do for people from all over the earth! Annie

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