“One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.”
I have been glued to the updates about Ukraine.
So much terror and heartbreak.
And yet, right alongside the injustice, we have seen the strength and resilience of the people of Ukraine.
We have seen the generosity and care of citizens of neighboring countries greeting the one million Ukrainians who have fled their country at their borders.
When darkness surrounds, light shines brightly.
We have been drawn together across the globe, giving what we can, staying informed, and longing for justice and peace.
Within this landscape, I have been reflecting on the experience of refugees around the world.
Unfortunately, the experience of having to flee one’s home at a moment’s notice is not unique to Ukraine. The UN estimates that 1 in every 95 people on our globe have fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.*
Niteo took a daring step into a new chapter this year. This new chapter has brought us into community with newcomers and refugees right here in our neighbourhood, the city of Kelowna.
In January 2022 Niteo launched a new local program, working in partnership with Okanagan Regional Libraries and the University of British Columbia – Okanagan, to promote literacy and reading within newcomer families in Kelowna.
Story As Community was the name we gave this program and little did we know how true those words would be!
A beautiful community has been growing through our weekly program. Between our student volunteers and family participants, we represent eleven countries of birth.
Our gathering is comprised of students who have moved for school and families who have moved for work, to be near family, and to flee violence and conflict in their homelands.
The collective daring, strength, and beauty represented in our gatherings has been a weekly ray of light.
Each week we read together, we share together, and we learn and grow together.
We had a father feel safe to ask how to pronounce a word he had seen on many signs but was not sure how to it sounded.
A mother shared how her son is usually quite shy and reserved and she was surprised and grateful at how quickly he came out of his shell. This young person read a story to the group the third week of program!
Two boys found out they are the same age and their parents made plans for a playdate.
Families have shared their immigration stories. Those who have been in Canada longer have offered words of encouragement and support.
By gathering each week to read, learn, and share together, complete strangers have become a community of friends.
As a pilot program, we did not know what to expect.
Niteo took a brave and daring next step. The unfolding has been beautiful.
Our weekly program has become a space for shared learning, laughter, and relationship. The pillars of community.
Story As Community, indeed.
* https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html (not all of this movement is across country borders, but it reflects disruption and trauma all the same)