Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Has it only been one week since Makandja arrived in Chicago?



How can it be only a week since Makandja arrived?  There is so much to report and if you missed Makanja's welcome you can read it here

One of the most encouraging facts to report is that Makandja has friends from the refugee camp in Tanzania who are now in Chicago and who have been here four or five months already. Makanja and his friends were extremely happy to be connected to each other by the translator from JCFS (Jewish Child and Family Services). These friends will be great company and help to Makanja as he navigates his way through our complicated public transit system, food stamps and learning new language skills. 


Studying English with a snack.

There has  been a visit from his case manager at JCFS who brings a translator with her. Her name is Barbara and she will help Makandja to enroll in an English as a second language class (ESL) as well as help to get him food stamps, a medical check up, bus pass and other support necessities. Barbara is a social worker and is well trained to monitor Makandja, and to take responsibility for things we are not trained to do.


We have a core committee of volunteers in place and when Makandja's schedule is set for classes and he has done the things he needs to do to get food stamps etc, we will begin to look for more volunteers who may be interested in joining this core group of volunteers to perhaps become substitutes, alternates, or volunteer partners. 


This week Makandja had a Saturday visit from Jackie Cohen, her husband, Gary and Susan Gottlieb. They taught him how to use his microwave and his hot plate. They brought a runner that will protect his cabinet from the hot plate and toaster oven. They were happy to make this first important visit and to meet some of Makanja's friends from the camp in Tanzania.  They reported that the friends were nice, and that they were making great strides in learning English. 
At the French pastry shop in the neighborhood,
from the Left: Makanja, Barbara, Marcie, Ruti and Lisa


On Tuesday, May 30, Lisa Fisher and Marci Bearman visited Makandja and reviewed the use of appliances. We taught Makanja to use his appliances by supervising as Makanja  cooked the food himself. 


Then Makandja and his friend Ruti worked with us as we taught lessons about the names and values of currency and how to make change, as well as basic language phrases such as "may I have the book" and "I would like to buy water."
We all had lots of laughs and fun with us trying to use google translate and to speak Swahili,  while they tried to use their new English skills.   

We visited local markets, and stopped in for tea, coffee and drinks at a French coffee shop where two amazing women work. Makanja and his friend Ruti speak French as well as Swahili and these woman offered their support, friendship, and their help in case of an emergency.

Then we drove the boys to a grocery store that was better stocked than the neighborhood stores and took a longer walk around Makandja's neighborhood exploring parks and meeting a pastor at a church down the street. We taught Makanja how to look for addresses on buildings as we walked past them, how to read the names on street signs and the meaning of a few traffic signs.


Then, we went back to the apartment where Lisa made more delicious food and with Ruti's help; Marcie addressed an envelope to Makandja's camp in Tanzania and showed him where to put the Universal Forever World Wide Stamp on the envelope. Then we waited while Makanja wrote a long letter home which I took to the post office and mailed this morning. 


Makanja knows how to read and write very well in both French and Swahili and he is an earnest student. I am certain he will make fast progress not only in learning English, but in learning how to conduct himself and share the gifts which are his;  a smiling, friendly personality, which he balances with a serious and sensitive disposition. He is an exceptional young man. 

Exploring the neighborhood 

He has friends from home, and will make many new friends in his neighborhood, but I hope we can find a way to bring Makandja into all of our lives. We are hoping to have a picnic in the park near where he lives this summer with soccer or football as they refer to it and we will let you know the time and place.

But first, the basics necessities need to be taken care of for Makandja,  and we at Lakeside will need to wait to establish a steady schedule of volunteers. Please let Marcie  and Lisa know if you have free days, and what your free days are if you are interested in working with Makanja. If you want to be a volunteer and work with a partner you must fill out a background check from HIAS.  Please email Vanessa: Educator@lakesidecongregation.org and she will send you the forms.


Makandja could use a friend closer to his age to play soccer with, or a friend to take an adventure by bus or train to somewhere in the city that he would not know of or be comfortable traveling to alone. The possibilities are endless especially once he is more settled. 


We will be happy to share the experience with you with our updates as they come out.  An early Shabbat Shalom and we hope you had a Happy Shavuot.  


Marcie Bearman  and Lisa Fisher