We’re halfway through this Sprint for Good, but I’m finding myself falling in deep.
While my colleagues are writing code, designing page layouts, and leading our partners at Exodus through content and donor experience workshops, I had the opportunity to visit the Exodus headquarters. I was joined by our videographer, Andy Young from Granola Video, who has given his time this week to document these stories.
The Exodus office is a labyrinth of smaller offices and rooms, and that layout begins to make sense as I observed all the services provided by Exodus case workers. Keep in mind that nearly 1000 individuals resettled in Indiana last year alone, and require language, health, and civic services.
I first came upon an English class learning basic vocabulary and the additional terms they’d need to know in their places of work. In that room, I witnessed one of the more recent Hoosiers practice language skills as she aspires to be a journalist. She has lived in a refugee camp since she was four months old; she arrived in Indiana this January at the age of 22.
Tucked in a small office down the hall, an Exodus volunteer leads a job interview prep session. The “clients,” as they’re referred to by Exodus, took turns asking each other questions they may hear during future interviews: “what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?” These questions are far too familiar for many of us, but the stakes are high for these clients as they have 90 days to become self-sufficient. One man had notes in the margin of his worksheet to remember to emphasize he was willing to learn, reliable, and persistent.
Though Exodus helps refugees establish their lives in Indiana - and helps arrange their housing - the bills are ultimately the responsibility of the individual.
In the computer lab, three men review job openings at local businesses. One man is hoping to land a food supply warehouse job; another is excited about working in housekeeping at a downtown hotel. The third man is a bit more timid to my presence, but he’s dressed up in a blazer and no doubt hoping to land one of the opportunities offered by Exodus’ network of business partners.
Sara Hindi, a case worker and one of our project partners this week, invited me to observe an “intake session” of a Syrian family. This was only the sixth day in country for the family of seven, with children ranging from 16 years to 1 year.
It’s a challenge to enter a room with a camera, accompanied by a videographer, and remain a casual observer. While Sara spoke to the couple about the stack of documents in front of them, I kept my eye on the kids. The 8-year-old daughter would steal kisses from her baby sister, who would occasionally crack a giant smile. The two boys were perfectly still, with great posture, but at 6 and 10, must have been incredibly bored.
I made faces at them. I gave them a thumbs up. Finally, I borrowed a classic photographer trick to let them take pictures with my camera. And, with the help of Sara as translator, I told one of the boys I liked his shoes, a pair of navy Nikes with USA emblazoned on the heel. Pretty cool.
We asked a few questions of the family, directed to the mother. This was day six after six years of asylum in Turkey. Her kids did not go to school in Turkey and she didn’t have much hope for their future.
When asked about her hope for her family in Indiana, she didn’t hesitate.
“I hope they receive the best education, of course. And I want them to live whatever dreams they have, to be whoever they want to be.”
We do, too.