Written by Kevin Heffernan

Well that doesn’t really jive with what Fox News told me…

We were going to write this whole satire piece about reality not being what Fox News told us it was, but forget those idiots, forget the President and his lies.

It’s Christmas. Whenever it is that we take our heads out of the chaos that is shopping for things our families don’t need until we’re broke, maybe it’s after drink number six on Christmas eve, we usually have a spare 10 seconds to reflect on how great we have it. Your job may suck, but you have one. Your family may be weird, but they’re alive. Your apartment may be too small, but the hot water works, and you can drink from the faucet.

We’ve asked you to support organizations like International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Buffalo String Works and more over the years with your wallets, your time, your attention. As you think about how you want to enter 2019, consider no longer standing on the sidelines. Stand up for refugees by speaking out. Reach out to these people. Befriend them. Share the articles that shed light on the truth.

Now, enjoy some images of what Christmas is all about. Smiles. Food. Cookies. Happiness and Peace. This event was put on by Jericho Road Community Health Center at a library in Riverside. Mary Schaefer interviewed some of those celebrating that day. Faces and photos may not necessarily correspond with interviews, due to privacy requests made my some of those present that day.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas at home?
A: No.
Q: When you celebrate Christmas in ESL class, what do you like?
A: [All laugh] – Everything! Our teachers, the Christmas tree and stockings, and being together with our classmates and having fun with them.
Q: What traditions did you have before you came to the US that you still keep now?
A: When Ramadan ends, we celebrate Eid [al-Fitr] with lots of food and we eat with our family and give some gifts. We give new clothes to all the babies.
Q: Are there any foods from Eid that you like best?
A: Sweet bread/cookie/pastry called kleicha
Q: What is hardest about living in the US?
A: The language. But we all studied English in Iraq so we had some ability to speak before we came here. [Faeza from Syria was especially good at speaking English.]
Azhar said, “We love America. We want to stay here.” Her sisters agreed very wholeheartedly.
Shei Paw came to America as a refugee from Thailand – she speaks Burmese and Karen. Boh Tin came to America as a refugee from Thailand – he also speaks Burmese and Karen. (They aren’t related, I just interviewed them together because they are in the same ESL group.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas at home?
A: [Both] No
Q: When you celebrate Christmas in ESL class, what do you like?
A: [Both, excitedly] The tree, being together, happy friends, decorating
Q: What traditions do you have from before you came to the US that you still enjoy and celebrate?
A: Thailand new year – we eat rice, meat, and noodle
Q: What has been the hardest thing about coming to the US?
A: The language [common answer, unsurprisingly!]
 – [Boh Tin] No school in my country, never learned English
 – [Shei Paw] I was happy to come to America and happier when I started learning English
Q: When you came to America did you have friends who spoke Burmese/Karen?
A: Yes
Q: Did you have friends who spoke English?
A: Just a little bit
Q: What do you like best about America?
A: [Shei Paw] Eat! Food! In my country, many people very poor, not enough food
A: [Boh Tin] Learning English, having good teachers, – happy to have opportunity to learn
Christina (Teacher) asked – “Life is better here?”
Both answered, “Yes!”