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Photo: Child Participant Welcome Picture

DC Pro Bono Week 2020: Kids Can Help Too!

By Axana Soltan

America is known as a nation of immigrants. It is a country that prides itself on being a melting pot and for welcoming people from many different countries, races, and religions, all hoping to find freedom, new opportunities, and a better way of life.  A Conversation With Kids About Immigrants and Fairness was an event hosted by Washington Council of Lawyers on October 27, 2020, to talk to younger children about why people come to America, the challenges they face, the injustices they overcome, and what lawyers can do to assist the immigrant community.

The discussion and activities were led by Michael Lukens, Associate Director of CAIR Coalition and Jeannine Gomez, Staff Attorney with KIND. The goal of the program was to raise awareness of migrants’ rights and to ensure that migrants are not feeling invisible.

To put the conversation about the struggles of immigrant children into context, Michael read a book called, “I’m New Here,” by Anne Sibley O’Brien which teaches about the importance of our global community working together to build a home for all. While Michael read, the participants drew pictures of things they thought would be welcoming to someone new to our country.

The book shared a touching story about the assimilation of three immigrant students in a supportive school community. It shares the story of three students that immigrated from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia and have trouble speaking, writing, and sharing ideas in English in their new American elementary school. Through self-determination and encouragement from their peers and teachers, the students learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity.

One of our child participants commented, “I like this story a lot. Reminded me when we were in a new country, and I was really scared.”

The second exercise was a scavenger hunt. The kids had two minutes to find one item in their home they will not leave behind if they were to leave their home. The purpose of this exercise was for the kids to empathize with how hard it can be for immigrant children to move to a new place and to have to leave their favorite belongings behind.

One participant said, “If I don’t have my teddy bear close to me, I will not be able to go to sleep.”

Moving to a new country is a big life change that involves a lot of adjustments. This event brought awareness to how difficult it is for immigrant children to be thrown into a new country, let go of a place that they have known as their home, and to become immersed in a new culture. A Conversation With Kids About Immigrants and Fairness ended with what we can do to make immigrant children feel welcome in our country. With the help of the kids, the following list was compiled:

  1. Invite immigrant children to play with you.
  2. Smile and introduce yourself.
  3. Make efforts to learn their language too.
  4. Ask them if they need help with their schoolwork.
  5. Share your food with them and pray.
  6. Fight back against hate.
  7. Volunteer to help immigrants kids in your community.

We are continuing the conversation on social media using #DCProBono20.

Axana Soltan is a law student at the University of District of Columbia David A. Clarke School Of Law.