Tucson, know your new neighbors!
Fatuma by Kirsten Boele is a documentary that follows a woman named Fatuma in her first 90-days in Tucson, as a refugee from Sudan . She had been living in a refugee camp with three of her six children. She was separated from her oldest three children and her husband. At the time of her arrival in Tucson she didn't know where they were. After a long trip, Fatuma, six-months pregnant, landed in Tucson with her three young children, a daughter and two sons, . Fatuma knew only some English and the family had little experience with shopping in large big box grocery stores, riding city buses, or with American modern stoves and refrigerators.
Luckily they had the help of the Tucson branch of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) . In Tucson, I have seen lots of people who look like they are from the Sudan, Ethiopia and other similar countries, but had no idea what their support system consisted of. The IRC teaches refugees English and our American Culture. They also help show refugees the ropes of shopping, help put their kids in school, get clothes and give other kinds of help including regular visits by volunteers to see that things are going well. The IRC also channels funding to provide refugees with money to help them relocate for the first few months and then get them on food stamps and aid for daily living. But this does not cover everything, especially in our economy.
Life in Tucson was hard for Fatuma, especially being 6-months pregnant and taking care of three small children on her own. It was also hard not eating her traditional foods and having friends around who speak her language. She needed a translator for doctor visits and for other situations.
Spoiler Alert: There were a lot of happy endings for Fatuma. It was arranged for Fatuma's mother to be flown to Tucson to help her with the baby. Then Fatuma had her baby and at that time felt more confident to learn more English and study for a career in nursing.
I really appreciated how this documentary was filmed in a very objective way and not injected with great drama. The situation for a refugee is dramatic enough. The camerawork was very good. The soundtrack consisted of gentle music and some that reminded me of the Sudan culture. I felt that I was getting to know these refugees almost as friends. It was easy to feel empathy for their situation. This film tells only the beginning of the story of refugees coming to our country and their assimilation into our culture.
I myself have felt like a stranger in other countries. One time I tried to live in Canada. Even though they speak English and I have lots of relatives there, the culture is a bit different and I felt sometimes like a stranger. So I know partially what refugees from other countries feel like when they come here. I couldn't imagine trying to learn a new language! When I see someone who obviously looks like they are a refugee trying to assimilate here, I at least wave "Hi" or smile in passing. It helps a lot on an emotional level.
I highly recommend all Tucsonans see this film. It's a great introduction to the humanitarian programs offered here in Tucson and to know your new neighbors. There are rumors that this film may be shown on PBS, but for now you can buy copies here. See a trailer here.
Posted by Jean Jessup.