This morning we met at an adorable café down the street from our apartments to reflect on and discuss our first week of activities. The café is called Merenderia and the owner’s goal is to create a community space where there is sport, nature, and social interactions.
One topic our group grappled with is our impact on the individuals at the Vel Mari Migrant Center. We discussed whether we were helping or hurting the people there and if they’re actually ready to share their stories. Some of my classmates thought that we were making them tell their stories too soon and that we weren’t qualified professionals to help them cope with the trauma. Other classmates thought that we were brightening their day by simply being there and interacting with them. One student brought up the idea that we aren’t going to change their lives just by being here for a few weeks but that we should all take this simply as an informative trip. Personally, I was undecided.
When we arrived for our dinner party at Vel Mari and listened to the “Where I’m From” presentations that some of the people staying at Vel Mari prepared, my mind was made up. I believe that listening to these individuals sharing their stories and culture with us was mutually beneficial for both sides. Seeing how happy and excited some of the presenters were reassured me that us being there wasn’t hurting them. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the presentations that we heard:
Harrison John from Nigeria said in his presentation, “I want the world to know we are different colors but one people”
Along the same lines, Osas said in his presentation, “Even though we are different colors we are human, I have one head, you have one head. I have two legs, you have two legs. We are one; we need to live in love, peace, and harmony.
Mohammed from Mali shared this quote, “Time decides who you meet in your life. Your heart decides who you want in your life. Your behavior decides who stays in your life.”
After the presentations we ate an amazing meal cooked for us by some of the women who live at Vel Mari. The menu was Cameroonian and absolutely delicious. I forgot to take pictures until after I had already stuffed my face so the pictures don’t do the food justice but trust me-it was great.