Opening Doors for New Americans since 1882
by Hannah Hyams*, age 15
Several weeks ago, my dad, my friend Sara, and I went to greet Bhutanese immigrants with HIAS Pennsylvania and I can honestly say that it was one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. Every “issue” I have ever had seemed so silly after seeing the looks on this family’s faces as we drove them home and they watched the city pass them in amazement; they were so blissfully happy to be starting off in a city where the spoke no English and had almost no family or material possessions. They were so beyond grateful to be here; it was a family of six who arrived, two grandparents, two parents, and two daughters. My dad and I drove the grandparents back to their apartment, and I have never seen someone smile more than the grandfather did and he looked out the window. It was a big eye-opener for me when the grandparents were unsure of how to use their seatbelts and my father had to help them; it made me realize just how different their new life would be for them, it’s like they’re advancing 500 years in terms of the technology they can now access. For instance, when the family was being shown around their new apartment and were introduced to a light switch, it took the grandmother a few tries to get it right.
This family arrived in a country so completely unlike everything they’ve ever known and were happy just to know that they had the opportunity for a better life; it made everything else seem so insignificant. This experience taught me to be grateful for everything I have, and to remember that the life I am used to here in the United States is much different from life in other parts of the world. I think the work that HIAS Pennsylvania does with regard to refugee settlement is remarkable and extremely important; HIAS Pennsylvania helps so many refugees create a better life for themselves and that is extremely invaluable.
Overall this experience was one of the most meaningful, touching, and life-changing experiences I have ever had and I commend HIAS Pennsylvania for their extraordinary work.
*Hannah is the daughter of long time Board member and ally Warren Hyams.