Author: Nadia Fitzcharles, Director of Ministries for Children, Youth, Family & Community
On a cold, rainy March 26,2022, around 70 participants in the Neighbor2Neighbor (formerly called Homework Club) program gathered at Peace Lutheran Church to celebrate Nowruz, the Afghan New Year. The group included approximately 12 Afghan families and many of the volunteers who have worked with them as tutors or mentors or have provided household furnishings, books, toys, children’s clothing, rides or donations.
Our Afghan colleagues on the planning team and a newly arrived Afghan neighbor explained the meaning of Nowruz and the special ways it is celebrated in Afghanistan. This included showing us the festive table each family prepares with HAFT SIN, or seven items symbolizing new beginnings, long life and prosperity including eggs, oleaster, garlic, live fish & coins (see photo). We admired the beautiful traditional Afghan dresses worn by women to celebrate the New Year, as well as festive men’s wear. The bright reds, golds, blues and greens added to the celebratory air. After the presentations, we all enjoyed a wonderful potluck of home cooked food prepared by Afghan families including the requisite HAFT MEWA, seven fruits soaked in water, as a special treat. The volunteers provided desserts and beverages. The room buzzed with the energy of many conversations and the energy and joy was palpable. Nowruz Mubarak to everyone!
NEIGHBOR2NEIGHBOR is an initiative of four ACCA churches – John Calvin Presbyterian Church, Little River UCC, Peace Lutheran Church and Ravensworth Baptist Church – begun in 2018. We employ a two-generational approach to helping Afghan families resettle here and feel included as valued members of our community. We typically meet twice a month for in-person engagement, which is complimented by online ESL classes and individual tutors for adults, as well as help with preparing resumés and finding jobs, and, where possible, home furnishings. For children, we provide on-site tutors to help practice writing, math, and reading, as well as opportunities to engage in educational and recreational games.