Helen Thorpe, in her book The Newcomers visits a refugee woman from the Middle East, a widow with two teenage daughters. She observes, “… we could see the full weight of all she carried. She was trying to gain a foothold in a new country, a new language, and a new economy, all at once, and it was hard and frightening. Simply being seen made a huge difference. Someone had witnessed her struggle…”
There is something deeply valuable about the presence of someone who cares during a time of trial, transition or trauma. Imagine coming from a culture that is foundationally based around family, community and being a part of the group. You have to leave all of those connections that make life function, tearing yourself away from your support network not out of choice but out of necessity and you find yourself in a culture that is very focused on the individual, extremely fast-paced, with no family or support network to speak of. On top of all that, you have no idea how to cultivate new bonds because of your lack of understanding of the new culture, your limited language skills and maybe even limited mobility and means to get around in your new city.