By Jade Guthrie

Every year in San Diego, we welcome thousands of refugees – these are families fleeing war, conflict, and persecution. These are families who seek freedom and safety and travel across oceans to rebuild, recreate, and rejuvenate their lives. Here at Traveling Stories, we couldn’t be happier to be a part of building these bright, new futures with these families.

Recently, at the El Cajon StoryTent, we had one of the most beautiful and stunning experiences – a moment that truly recalled our vision and mission here at TS. Taha (pictured to the left) and his brother, Tay, are just a few of the children newly moved to San Diego just last year; refugees from Iraq, they attend our StoryTent weekly. But it’s not only the children that we see in El Cajon every week – it’s a whole family affair! Taha and Tay are accompanied by their mother and grandmother every Thursday. They come to our StoryTent looking to improve their English reading skills, learn new vocabulary, and master communication in this second language – as a family. (They also come to earn prizes!)

Recently, a thank you card was being passed around the Tent, with space for quick signatures and small messages for the donor sponsoring the program. Taha’s grandmother (pictured on the left) was asked if she wanted to leave a message on the card – she immediately went to work. Using a cardboard box to write a rough draft, Taha’s grandmother enlisted the help of the other mothers, grandmothers, and daughters she could find at the farmers market to help her translate her words from Arabic to English. Together, these women who had been strangers just seconds before came together as a community to express such a powerful sentiment of gratitude for what we do here at TS.

In the end, the combined work of these women produced a short message, but one filled with appreciation – “This very good IDEA for kids because it encourge for reading and develop the habit of reading.” This goes to show how the weekly StoryTent in El Cajon has helped these families – families who have come to America with almost nothing, thrown into a new environment– to come to express themselves and become empowered through working together. It’s stories like these that come out of the work that we do here at Traveling Stories that remind us what it’s all about – though the message written down might have been small, the message we received is a much bigger one.