by Maria Nakae
After being at ACRJ for almost five years, you don’t have to tell me what month it is for me to know it’s summer. Each year around this time, the office buzzes with incredible energy during the SAFIRE youth leadership program’s intensive summer session. This year, the girls are collecting stories from family members about their histories, struggles and accomplishments, and putting together a multi-media story telling project to present at the SAFIRE Summer Celebration on August 19th.
As someone who doesn’t regularly work directly with the girls, I often just see and hear all the hard work that the girls are putting into their projects and campaigns from the other side of the office. But yesterday I had the rare privilege of supporting a small group of girls in crafting their stories, pulling out the highlights, and thinking about how they want to present them. As the girls told the stories they had gathered form their parents – about lives filled with hardship back in their home countries, difficulties of immigration, and putting everything they had into ensuring that their children could have the American dream – I was moved and inspired. These stories are amazing!
The girls shared that not only did the process of gathering stories help them to understand their families’ histories and appreciate everything they had gone through, but it also motivated them to build stronger relationships with their family members to learn more about their roots. For these young women from immigrant and refugee families who are growing up in a very different world than that of previous generations, the story collection project has been a powerful way for the SAFIRE youth to better understand, connect with, the strengthen their families…and in turn, themselves.