Story in Wellesley Magazine Shows How Alumnae Worked Together to Help an Immigrant Family

Illustration of a woman and her dog meeting her neighbors, a family from Syria
Image credit: Illustration by Brian Rea
July 28, 2017

Usually, when a story is called a “tearjerker,” that description is not a compliment. Yet shortly after the summer issue of Wellesley Magazine landed in alumnae mailboxes, a reader emailed the editors to say that the issue should have come with a pack of tissues. One story in particular had moved her deeply: The Opposite of Difficult” by Kate Erickson ’05.

In the piece, Erickson, a TV writer based in Los Angeles, describes meeting the four children of a family that had moved in next door. After she asked a few questions, trying to be friendly, and introduced them to Abby, her cat, the two daughters looked at each other. Then the oldest boy said, “Syria. No English.”

That encounter spurred Erickson to action: “I went inside and posted on Wellesley’s various Facebook groups—a call for Syrian Arabic translators. From Jordan, alums Nora Jarrah ’02 and Priscilla Yoon ’08 Skyped incremental introductions between the kids and me. I emailed my neighbors’ landlord, who connected me to the family’s sponsoring church. The woman there said if I wanted to collect workbooks and educational materials, she wouldn’t complain. The kids wouldn’t be in school for several months. I posted to Wellesley’s Sed Ministrare group on Facebook, a forum for fulfilling our motto’s call to ministering, and the care packages started piling up on our stoop. When I delivered the flashcards and crayons, I would explain, ‘Wellesley again.’ Ten minutes later, the brigade of children would cross our yards, push plates of stuffed grape leaves onto my protesting palms.”

Over the next few months, Erickson continued to help the family, involving more and more alumnae, as well as people in her community.

“The story is a beautiful example of the way Wellesley alums truly live out the College’s mission to make a difference in the world, and it shows how eager they are to help each other, even if they’ve never met before,” said Lisa Scanlon Mogolov ’99, senior associate editor. “It also poignantly illustrates that big issues like immigration always have a human face.”

At the end of the piece—which we won’t spoil—Erickson reflects on what it means to be at home, and how her perception of home has changed because of her neighbors.

The summer issue also features “The Art of Connection,” which highlights the comprehensive renovation of Pendleton West and the addition of a music pavilion; “‘Go Forth, Be Great,’” excerpts from the 2017 commencement address by Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69; and “Having Faith in America,” a profile of Farhana Khera ’91, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy and educational organization.

“If you need a quick break from the polarization that seems to be all around us these days, look at these pieces,” writes editor Alice Hummer in her column. “When you’re finished, might I suggest putting on a pair of comfy shoes and going out for a walk through your neighborhood? You don’t have to wear the soles off. Even a few steps can go a long way.”