By Wendy Pease, Executive Director & Owner, Rapport International
When I say, “name a holiday” in November, you’d probably say “Thanksgiving”. And, it is an important holiday as it reminds us to slow down, eat up and say for what we are thankful. Usually, it’s health, family, friends and….. the meal we are about to eat. This year, people may even say they are thankful that the election is over!
Thanksgiving aside, there is another very important holiday celebrated on November 16 called International Day for Tolerance which “seeks to promote tolerance, respect, appreciation and cooperation amongst the world’s different cultures.”
As owner of Rapport International, a provider of foreign language translation services, we embrace tolerance every day. And, when I listen to the stories of the linguists that work for us, I become amazed at their accomplishments and what they overcame as new Americans in the United States.
Nita and her husband were displaced from their home over 20 years ago from Azerbaijan. They both held respectable jobs as an engineer and a nurse, owned a nice “middle class home” and surrounded themselves with friends and family. When war hit, they were moved temporarily (4 years) to Moscow with only the clothes they were wearing. And then, relocated to mid-western United States where they did not know the language, people or customs. They learned how to be productive and contribute to the betterment of their community while being thankful for the opportunities that they have now in a safe community. One of their kids’ favorite holidays became Halloween as there is no other country where kids can walk around and get free candy.
Or Abdel, who fled from his house in Iraq when the military came to capture him for not agreeing with the ruling party. He knew capture meant death. He left behind his wife with an infant and a special needs toddler. He found a place to live for over three years in a refugee camp on the border. Since he was educated and knew English, he served as an interpreter for the US forces at the camp. And, because of his service as an interpreter, he received preferential treatment to go to the United States. When he could finally call his wife, he had to lie and say he was in London so the military wouldn’t look for him or punish his wife for hiding his whereabouts. Secretly, he got a message to her on how to cross the border with the two young children so she could come to the United States and they could be reunited. Currently, they volunteer lots of time with new Arabic speaking refugees in their community to help them settle in the United States. New refugees want a safe community, decent jobs and good prospects for their children. Plus, they are willing to work hard and give back.
Every refugee has a story that is beyond scary. Picture yourself, educated and highly employed uprooted from your home, friends, belongings and then relocated to a new country with nothing. It takes a huge amount of resilience to build a life again.
This November 16 until Thanksgiving (a week), in honor of International Day for Tolerance, you can make an individual difference:
- Spread awareness on social media (#InternationalDayforTolerance) or posting how to celebrate differences
- Watch a movie about tolerance – two of my favorites are Schindler’s List and Hotel Rwanda
- Talk to your kids about tolerance or better yet, inclusion and what it means to you
Celebrate someone’s accent – they speak two languages at least. Do you?
To read more, see http://www.wincalendar.com/International-Day-for-Tolerance