Diaspora

A world's troubles, laid at Globe Santa's feet – The Boston Globe

For 67 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail or online at globesanta.org.
The Community Action Drop-In center north of Boston is a haven for those in need, offering essential services, advice, basic medical care, breakfast, clothing.
It is where a family from Haiti has been getting assistance since their arrival in the United States as refugees, earlier this year. Fleeing the violence and chaos of their home, they left everything; what money they had, paid their way to safety. They’re living in a shelter, a family of five in two rooms, working hard to establish themselves, to become independent.
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It’s a lot to tell, in a letter to Globe Santa. A caseworker who has been working with them added her own letter on their behalf. “Their circumstances meet the very definition of ‘hardship,’” she wrote. “Yet they manage to smile every time we meet. I hope you can be part of making their Christmas a merry one.”
The stories refugees tell Globe Santa can be harrowing, of homes and lives lost to war, acts of terror, gang violence, of treacherous journeys from violence-wracked Central America, from Haiti’s downward spiral, from wars in Syria and Somalia, and now from Ukraine.
Grateful to be in the United States, to feel finally safe, they face new struggles — to find their footing, support their families, secure housing, and learn a new language — they write to Globe Santa so that as a hard year closes, at least their children have the pleasure of books to read, toys, games to play, even warm clothing.
From a Boston shelter, a letter in a shaky hand tells the story of a “terrible journey” from Chile by a Haitian mother and her two children, 5 and 2. The 5-year-old is the narrator.
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“Crossing the forest to reach the border of Mexico my family and I almost died. We spent five days in the forest without food and drinks. My mother crossed deep water carrying my little sister on her chest, and I was carried by a gentleman on his neck. I saw people and babies lying dead. Finally we reached Mexico border, but the policeman put us in jail. My mom, my little sister, and I were in jail for 8 days, then after that they let us come to the U.S.A.”
This short letter from a family from Syria sums up their challenges and their hopes. “We are struggling to pay the bills. We are working very hard to learn English and eventually to become good citizens of the United States.”
Though their circumstances may differ, the daily difficulties are no less daunting for immigrants. It’s one thing to dream of a new life here, another entirely to make that dream come true.
The mother of a 2-year-old girl wrote about leaving Cambodia for “a better life for me and my family in the United States,” only to discover how elusive it could be.
“Immigrating is hard,” she said. “I never spoke English growing up and quite truthfully I still don’t. I’m learning but employers don’t see that in me, so finding a job is very difficult.” It’s for her daughter, she said, that she’s asking for help from Globe Santa. “Even if it’s one gift, I’d be eternally grateful, seeing the smile on my daughter’s face when she can open up a wrapped gift.”
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There is deep appreciation in the letters, for Globe Santa’s simple acts of kindness, for the Boston Globe Foundation’s support of a program that for 67 years has delivered joy to children when their parents cannot, and for the haven the United States has been for their families.
“The U.S. is a very large and beautiful land of opportunity,” a Ukrainian mother wrote, grateful “to all the people who are next to us and support us.”
But her Christmas wish is to go home. “I wish for the war in my country to end as soon as possible.”
It is a wish widely shared by the reluctant refugees of wars they didn’t start, and never wanted.
“I’m very glad that I don’t have to hide in bomb shelters at night and that missiles and bombs don’t fly over my head,” wrote a Ukrainian girl, 10, “But all my friends, grandparents, my house, and everything for drawing remained in Ukraine (I really like to draw). I only have one wish for Santa! Do a miracle so that the war in Ukraine stops and I can return home and hug my relatives and play with my favorite teddy bear. I want, this year, only this gift. Thank you.”
Ellen Bartlett can be reached at ellen.bartlett@globe.com.
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