Patricia Friar

As Interviewed by Flynn C., March 15, 2015

Patricia Friar: In Her Own Words

I learned a lot about different cultures. The biggest lesson is, I learned that all people are the same. Where I came from was so different, I went from Pennsylvania in the hills without a bathroom, and went to Washington DC where they had everything. So, I could kind of relate to some of the differences that these people dealt with. I could empathize with them to a certain point.

The people in the community reacted in different ways. Some people wanted to help them just as much as we were helping them. There were people who felt threatened by the refugees because they felt like they were getting help from the government that maybe they felt they should have been getting. When I was doing things for the refugees, I felt happy. I was glad to be helping them, and I felt very lucky that I didnít have to go through the same things they were going through.

We had people, and they came from seven different countries: Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, South Sudan, Burma, Vietnam, and Iraq, and so their experiences had been very, very different. Some of them for example, the Lost Boys from South Sudan who had been through a lot of trouble, and had lived in refugee camps for years and years, they were just happy to be here. Others who maybe had a good life, like a lot of the Bosnians lived in Germany and they had a pretty good life in Germany but Germany wouldnít let them stay, they kind of resented being here. They wanted things to be like they were at home, and so a lot of them were kind of hoping it was temporary. The boys from South Sudan, they had been through so much. They, they were never down. They were not complaining about anything. They were very, very happy to be here. And, despite all their hardships, they were very, very hopeful about the future. They were just always looking forward.

Most of them ended up fitting into their communities. There were a few who had some difficulty. The difficulties were due to their attitudes more than anything, but we had difficulty because some of the adults particularly didn't really want to be here. Therefore, they didnít want to learn English, and thatís where we had trouble. There are a couple of families who still donít quite fit in and itís been twenty years. What they expected, I think depended a lot on what they had already learned about the country. In the refugee camps for example, there was an orientation program that they went through so they had some idea of what the country was like, but I think in most cases they had some idea. In some cases they expected total handouts. They didn't expect to have to work as hard as they had to after they got here.

They would not be considered to be poor. How poor they would be considered depended on how hard they wanted to work, but most of them, they knew they had to work. They werenít going to get a free ride.

In several cases, the parents didn't know English and weren't really going to English classes. So, the kids learned English faster, and a lot of the burden fell on the kids. The children adjusted to the schools because there were special classes for newcomers. It was called a Newcomer Academy as a matter of fact, and we would take them to the school offices for testing to see what grade they might fit into. Some have gone onto college. Theyíve succeeded.

We had a couple from Bosnia. They had lived in Germany for a few years, but they came here and we got them set up at their own apartments. The man next door stole the gas stove and left the gas on so the whole building exploded. That couple was in Parkland Hospital with third-degree burns for quite some time, and then after that we had to take emí back weekly. However, that family now, they have their own home, they own two rental properties. They are doing extremely well.

Some of the people who were kind of reluctant to help the refugees at first, some of them who kind of even resented them. As they got to know them they started to understand that yíknow, human nature is human nature whether you're from Sudan or Bosnia or America. So, I think it was good for all of us from that standpoint, that we realize that people are people and that we can all help each other.