Sisters for Simeitsa
Simeitsa is a family mentor, a volunteer from the Baltimore community who is paired with a newly arrived refugee family through the IRC office. Every week Simeitsa goes to the house of an Eritrean family to practice English with them. Some weeks they spend time together at home, playing games with the kids and enjoying meals. Other weeks they go out and explore the city. Simeitsa explains details of life in Baltimore to the family, and in return she learns about Eritrea.
Simeitsa first met the family four months ago. She describes how on the very first day, “they welcomed me into their house and made me feel like family.” That initial warmth shown Simeitsa has only continued to grow. She explains, ‘Often times they tell me, “You are my sister. You are my friend.”’
It can be hard for Simeitsa and the family to communicate with each other, as the family only knows limited English. Simeitsa, however, finds this challenge to be a positive part of the relationship. She loves to see how the family’s English abilities increase each week, allowing their conversations to grow in complexity and more stories to come forth.
Simeitsa explains, “It is not easy having to pick up and leave for a completely different lifestyle, language, and culture. I have the utmost respect for people in such situations. If I was from a different country and unfamiliar with cultural customs and language, I would want someone to be there for me. That is why I am there.” And in return the family is there for her. Simeitsa expresses her happiness and gratitude that the family has accepted her so completely. She states, “A complete stranger was taken in as one of their own. It didn’t matter my religious, racial, or ethnic background. They still would take me as family anyway.”
Each time Simeitsa visits the family, she feels as if she steps into Eritrea. “I am the kind of person who dreams about going around the world; however my circumstances don’t allow me to do so. I love being a part of the IRC community and building new connections with families.” The family has begun to teach Simeitsa some Tigrinya language skills. Simeitsa laughs at how difficult it is for her to gain even the basics of the language, but then grows serious when she describes how much she has learned from the family. “They have taught me to be more generous,” Simeitsa states, “And to strive to work hard even when you are in the most difficult situation.”
For mor einformation about becoming a family mentor, contact Helen DeKorne at email@example.com or call 410-558-3199.