“what a wonderful life”

Bruce Barone has written a short story about an experience we had on Saturday at Mittineague Park. I am sharing it here with you and hope you enjoy it. I have also included a poem Bruce Barone has recently written about Bridges Together.

mitt park 2017

On Saturday, Susan and I, and Freddy, ran into these two angels at the park down the street from where we live–Mittineague Park.

emma and felcia

They are cousins and they were at the park with their family celebrating their grandfather’s 70th birthday. There were lots of people, adults and children of every age. One man was overseeing the grill and wonderful aromas were wafting throughout the air. And, women were sitting on the picnic tables preparing foods.

The girl on the left was in one of the past 3rd grade classes where we volunteer every Tuesday—reading, talking, laughing, creating art. When she saw us, she ran over and gave us a big hug! That is how wonderful this volunteer program, Bridges Together, is; it benefits both the children and the volunteers.

Freddyat mitt park 2017

She asked if she could introduce her grandfather to us. “Of course”, we said. He came toward us, with a great big smile. He said, with pride, one granddaughter was his daughter’s daughter and the other was his son’s daughter. The large extended family has immigrated to the United States from Moldova.
mitt park fall
Later in the day, I went back to the park and gave the girls and the grandfather each a 4×6 print of this photo—–and they gave me a big plate of food (chicken, beef and lamb kebabs, salad, home-made bread) to take home!

Here is the poem Bruce Barone wrote recently about our volunteer experience.

What A Wonderful World

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This is an account of children, third grade students, of Coburn Elementary School

Located in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Children who are 8-10 years old

Interacting with senior citizens—building bridges together by talking, reading,

Listening, creating art, laughing, sharing pieces of ourselves.

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Many children of refugees and immigrants. Children of dreamers

Of a better way of life. Children of parents and grandparents

From Nepal, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Puerto Rico,

Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Latvia, Belarus, Germany,

Poland, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Moldova.

Children who speak two, three, four languages.

Children named Maimuna, Luis, Jayden, Ivy, Haydia, Nabaa,

Evan, Luca, Layla, Bogdan, Isabella, Victoria, Mohamed,

Prashna, Prashik, Prateemna, Prabesh, Jaylin, Tisha, Milana,

Emily, Jordan, Miyana, Joseph, Yuliya, Matilda, Lilly, Emil,

Michael, Kimberly, Yariana, Elijah, Hailey, David, Caleb,

Matthew, Emil, Yariana, Mykle, Jade, Mihaela.

3coburn girls

Children who dream of being firefighters, lawyers, baseball players,

Basketball and soccer players, doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers.

Children who say, “You are the best Bridges friends ever.”

“Thank You for listening and talking with me.”

“Thank you for doing the Macarena with me.”

“Thank You for playing cards with me.”

“Thank You for making me laugh.”

prashik and friend

“Thank You for helping me. You were funny, helpful and supportive.”

“Thank You for your company and helping us with our art projects.”

“I am grateful you spent time with us.”

“Thank You for your time. Remember when we made the banks?

That was so much fun! Hope we can do it again.”

“Thank you for being here when I am down. You get me

Up and going. You make me happy.”

“Thank you for helping us with the fun stuff we made.”

“I love you. You will always be in my heart.”

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Our Bridges friends: Children who believe the world is wonderful

“Because Nature is a painting by life;”

“Because there are lots of beautiful things and happy families;”

“Because there are computers, cats, people, food, pets,

Family, friends, water, emogees, sunflowers, rainbows,

Waterfalls, forests, and cookies;”

“Because we have families, food, and trees;”

“Because we see different people every day and they are beautiful;”

“Because of family, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles,

Grandparents and food and drinks;”

“Because of many beautiful faces;”

5coburnprashna

“Because everyone loves each other. We all are family;”

“Because of flowers, grass, trees, animals, people, religions;”

“Because of friends and family and my teachers;”

“Because of every person in the world smiling and laughing;”

“Because the roses are red, the clouds white, the sky blue.

They are there for me and you.

What a wonderful world.”

“Mr. Bruce and Miss Susan………

When will we see you again?

I love you.”


“How did this start?”

Prashna asks me again “how did this start?” And she answers, “Oh, yeah, with the eye glasses.”

My husband, Bruce Barone, and I volunteer at a local elementary school with third graders through  Bridges Together program.

It is a school where more than 40 countries are represented by the students.

CoburnMap

 

Prashna and her family came to the United States from Nepal in 2010. She lives in a rented home with her 12 year old brother, her 15 year old sister, her mother, her uncle and her maternal grandparents.

The children speak English fluently and are good students. Prashna loves to sing and make youtube videos; Prashik plays soccer and says that he “was instilled with the destiny to play professional soccer”; and Pratima loves to dance in the Nepali tradition, wearing colorful saris.

I met Prashna while she was in the 3rd grade, a bright, gregarious, energetic 10 year old. I noticed that she was holding her eye glasses, rather than wearing them. When I inquired, she told me that they were broken and indeed they were. I asked her if she knew the optical shop where she originally obtained them and she did. I spoke to the classroom reading teacher about getting them replaced and I offered to arrange for it. With the help of the classroom volunteer who speaks Nepali, he asked Prashna’s Mom if I could help in getting the prescription refilled and also let her know that I could help with transportation to the optical shop, if it were needed. She agreed.

As the weeks went by, I became more familiar with Prashna and her daily living experience. I could sense that she had a very tight-knit, loving family who were very steeped in the Nepali culture and within the small Nepali community in town. She is proud to be Nepali and likes to talk about and share her traditions with us. I could also sense that despite living in our town and in the US for seven years, she had little awareness or knowledge of the outer community or country.

I thought that she would be open to some greater exposure to experiences within her reach and hoped that her Mom would be supportive.

When the eye glasses were ready for pick up, I asked the para-professional if he would let Mom know and I also offered transportation. She was all set. I asked him to let her know that I had a special interest in Prashna and wanted to provide access to activities in town that would be a benefit to her. It was a bit awkward speaking through the interpreter, but I got the go-ahead that I needed.

prashna glasses

At the same time, I let the school principal know of my insights into Prashna, my intentions to open up the greater world to her, and that I was also interested in making sure she had all the school supplies she needed to be successful at school. A few days passed, and she let me know that Prashna needed a backpack. Great! An opportunity to meet Mom and let her know directly that I wanted to help and be involved in opening some doors to greater opportunities and experiences.

In the meantime, I thought about what would be a good initial experience for Prashna to venture outside of her familiar comfort zone. Another third grade student told me she belonged to Girls Scouts and enjoyed it very much. I did some research and spoke to a local troop leader and learned that they meet weekly at the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. I explained that I wasn’t sure if Prashna would like it, but wanted her to have the chance to check it out herself and make a decision. She offered to have Prashna come to the remaining few meetings and, if she wanted to, she could officially join in September when the meetings resumed. Great! And the Boys and Girls Club is within walking distance of Prashna’s home.

I spoke to Prashna about the Girl Scouts and explained as best I could what it was about and that I thought she would enjoy making new friends and joining in new activities. She was very interested and  excited. I let her know she would need her Mom’s permission. Another reach out to the para-professional who spoke to Mom about the Girl Scouts. She agreed.

I arranged to meet Mom and Prashna a few minutes before the Girl Scout meeting started to make introductions all around. Prashna saw some familiar faces from school and the leader asked one of the girls to make Prashna feel welcome. It was the first time I met Mom. She is the beautiful, warm, caring person I envisioned. I am sure she was relieved to finally lay eyes on me and make an assessment of me. We chatted for a short time and I gave her the new back pact to give to Prashna later at home. She was very appreciative.

Durga

Prashna has since attended the meetings and decided to join in September. She asks me when meetings will start. “Soon”, I say, “soon.”

In the meantime, we have sponsored Prashna and Prashik, her 12 year old brother, to one week summer camp, Fun Fitness Week, at the Boys and Girls Club. I asked Prashna what her experience was like during the week. She said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 100.”

Pratima mentioned to me that she was interested in doing an internship during the summer, before entering the 9th grade at West Springfield High School. I researched some options and she decided to pursue a Junior Leadership Program at the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. She had a fabulous learning experience and the Club was delighted to have her.

prashna and pratima

We have taken Prashna, her brother and her older sister to the cinema to see a movie, something they had not done. We spent a sunny afternoon on a riverboat cruise on the Connecticut River. It was delightful and they enjoyed it very much.

They have come to our home for dinner, to play, and to “just hang out”, as they say. At first, they were afraid of our cat and dog and now they feel very comfortable and look forward to playing with Freddy, hearing him bark when they arrive, and petting Nadine. Their friends and cousins have visited at our home, too. prashna at our home

prashna and cousin

prashik and friend

We have shopped at the local mall, which they had never been to before and had ice cream at the local garden stand and shop. And, yes, we have gone to McDonald’s more times than I care to count!

My husband and I have been most welcomed at Prashna’s home. Her Mom serves us tea and fruit when we arrive to pick up the children. We have joined them for dinner, having traditional Nepali food. We have gone to a Nepali wedding which was lovely and fascinating, open and welcoming. We were invited to Prashna’s birthday party, as well as her brother’s party and learned about Nepali traditions and met many of their relatives and friends. We attended a Bhutanese-Nepali cultural festival where Prashna’s older sister danced in the traditional Nepali way. I also went to “a Teej” celebration, an annual Nepali holiday, where all women are honored. Prashna’s older sister, Pratima, danced and her grandmother sang.

prashna b party

bhutan cultural event

 

It’s autumn now and we have sponsored Prashna and her brother in local soccer leagues. I never would have pictured myself a “Soccer Mom”, yet that is what I have become, bringing them to their practices and matches, and cheering them on. For her brother, it is a dream come true as Prashik dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and we are pleased to be part of his happiness. For Prashna, she wasn’t so excited about the thought of playing soccer. I convinced her that she will make new friends, enjoy the fun of the game, and learn about competition and teamwork. She has taken to it like a fish to water. Prashna has expressed to me that she would like to take voice lessons. I have started to research it.

prashik soccer player

The children have had greater experiences and enjoyable adventures as new doors have been opened for them. We have been learning about a culture we did not know and sharing our love and attention with a Nepali family. It truly is a wonder-full world.