I remember seeing my friend Ari sitting on a park bench under a small shade tree. It was a warm day in June. She had a boy in a stroller and a little girl romping around nearby. It was her kids that initially drew me to her and then as I sat next to her the next few days I saw myself in her. She was a mother to two kids just like me, we are probably close to the same age, though I never asked her age (you never ask a woman their age).
I don’t speak Farsi and Ari didn’t speak English so initially communication was difficult. Luckily I brought trusty dum-dum suckers, and offered one to each of her kids, immediately the ice was broken and we exchanged phone numbers so that I could meet up with her again, this time with a translator so that I could have the opportunity to hear her story.
Her story brought me to my knees as she told me about her life in Afghanistan; how her 6 year old son ended up having to spend most of his time in a stroller because he’s unable to walk. Her husband was holding him when he was a toddler and a bomb hit near their home in Afghanistan. The powerful explosion caused him to fall from his Father’s arms. He hasn’t been able to walk since then. In Greece a local organization gave them the stroller and although it’s broken, it provides relief for Ari so she doesn’t have to carry her son everywhere.
When Ari and her family made the decision to flee Afghanistan 14 months before I met her, they like so many before walked from Afghanistan to Turkey where they got on a raft to the Greek Islands. At the time Ari’s son was 4 years old and her daughter would have been about 15 months old. It took them forty days to complete their journey. Ari struggles to find adequate medical care for her son and stability for her daughter. She longs to find sufficient medical care for her son so that maybe someday he will walk.
She goes to a local ministry that provides meals to refugees as it turns out I was volunteering at their food program the next day. I was so happy to have the opportunity to see Ari and her family again. I was able to collect information for them for a women and children’s clinic run by the same organization.
Ari was grateful for the help and I think forever changed by the love she felt. What she doesn’t know is that she forever changed my life as well. Her kids brought a smile to my face when I was missing my own on the other side of the ocean. She is a women that is strong. A mom that cares deeply and passionately for her kids. A mom that just wants the best that she can provide and she will fight to get it.