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Welcome Home to UCOM

July 27th, 2016

Guest Blog by BettyBeth Johns

Recently a woman who did not speak English entered the food pantry at UCOM and quietly had a seat in the reception area. She was warmly greeted by staff and she smiled but did not sign in or indicate what she wanted. When she spoke, it became clear that her native language was Arabic.

Coincidentally (or not) our temporary receptionist speaks perfect Arabic! He quickly engaged the woman in conversation in their native tongue. Immediately her body language changed. Her eyes sparkled. Her animated speech and the smile on her face said one thing clearly: I’m HOME. A place of welcome. A respite from the world’s troubles. A guiding force. It was all there, in the midst of a language that transported her—for those few minutes—HOME.

We are very fortunate to have volunteers and some staff members who provide bilingual services to our clientele. Several other staff members are learning Spanish. Learning a new language always seems to take so long.  We trip and slip through the rudimentary Spanish we have learned so far. Our Spanish-speaking neighbors are very gracious and friendly, laughing with us as we feel like the “outsiders”. It takes longer to communicate. It is satisfying to think that we non-Spanish speakers can be the catalyst for bridging community disconnect. Even with our feeble attempts, our neighbors know that we mean to create home, a safe place to recover from the slings and arrows of life in a different culture.

At UCOM we mean to be welcoming to everyone. We are humbled and honored to do this work each day.

*Edited by Bruce Roller

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