weather change



Katie Patrick

Once a week, Amina, Fatima, Nafisa, Miriam and Samia meet at a local nonprofit to crochet and “talk about the weather” with one of the CSS refugee team members. This topic is quite apt as these Sudanese women refer to their time spent together as “changing the weather.” It’s an Arabic expression that doesn’t have an English equivalent, but it’s meant to leave behind the stress of reaching a peaceful place.

012723inside Nyabuoy
CSS team member Nyabui Chan

This small group does just that. All five women are new arrivals to the United States. They have just arrived as refugees or immigrants and are balancing the stress of moving to a new culture. Her member of our team, Nyabuoy Chan, assists each member in the process by being a voice of strength and encouragement.

Amina is married and has five children. She earns her living by working outside her home, both she and her husband. In South Sudan, where they are from, it is very rare for mothers to work outside the home. That transition alone put a lot of stress on the family. Balancing daycare and school for five kids is a rollercoaster every day.

Neither she nor her husband have a reliable work schedule and their working hours are constantly changing. Even the slightest disruption to her daily routine can be stressful. Two of her children are autistic and struggle with being different. Amina looks forward to this crochet circle as a peaceful place to relax and focus on things other than scheduling.

Fatima is a mother of seven children and a grandmother of three. She supports eight, including her five children aged 25 to her seven years old and all three of her grandchildren aged five months to nine months. One of her sons, her, was involved in a gang in high school a few years after arriving in Lincoln. Without knowledge of the local language and understanding of American culture, Fatima and her husband felt helpless to keep him away from the bad crowd who knew nothing until it was too late. I’m in the middle of the day, but I hope to get out of prison in a few years. He hooked up with a few good men and a visiting pastor in prison and now attends weekly services. Fatima is very proud that her son has found a way.

The three grandchildren Fatima is caring for belong to her eldest daughter, who is unable to care for her due to an abusive relationship. As I’ve written before, even when you know you should leave an abusive relationship, and in some cases when your life depends on it, it can still be difficult to leave. There is. Fatima prays daily that her daughter finds the strength to leave.

Nafisa arrived in Lincoln only a few months ago. She wants to meet people and learn about her new community. She has a two-year-old son and is expecting her second child in May. One of her unique aspects of Lincoln’s Sudanese community is the way its members operate commercially. When we travel or move to a new country, there are things we try to miss abroad, such as food, clothing, and English magazines. Her more than 10,000 Sudanese live between Lincoln and Omaha, several of whom own small businesses that import goods from their home country. When someone returns to South Sudan to see family or for work, he or she brings back highly sought-after items to sell or gift to others. It is a comforting, trustworthy charity network. Nafisa appreciates this. Because she can go shopping for dresses at a local Sudanese tailor while her pregnancy lasts.

Miriam is reticent and doesn’t share much. She and her husband have been trying to have children for nearly a decade, but options like adoption aren’t common in their culture. Miriam enjoys helping her friends and neighbors take care of their children, and she is working on obtaining a license to provide home child care. Her crochet and “weather-changing” conversations help brighten her day as she is loved and accepted by the other women in the group.

Samiah, a Sudanese single mother of four, is probably the most exhausted but enthusiastic participant. Being a full-time single parent is hard work for her (I don’t know how she does it!). Yet each week she provides lots of energy, homemade food (which everyone does), and chai (tea) for everyone. She leads her conversations and is always happy to offer her own thoughts, but at the same time she listens to her, respects and encourages the opinions of others.

She decided to leave her husband and had to endure a number of harsh judgments from other community members. It’s not easy to do so when others are judging you, yet she respects those who disagreed with her own decisions and moves on. Her children are doing well in school and that keeps her motivated. Samia feeds them and works tirelessly to give them opportunities she never experienced herself.

These five women simply represent what it’s like to be a newcomer. Learning a new language, adapting to new customs, understanding how the education system works, the Western novelty of managing a household while working, and so much more, add to the struggles that everyone faces when moving to a new country. I have a challenge. Outside the home, all of this can add stress to marriages and other family relationships.

At CSS, we recognize that these women have left behind strong networks of family and friends, and we support them in building new ones. Each week, our collaboration invites them to put the stress at the door and step into a place and time for an hour or two of peaceful conversation and friendship, weather changes.
Saint Lafka, patron saint of knitting, pray for us!


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