Every summer, thousands of college and high school students set out on programs taking them all over the world, thinking they can change the world. They either come back with the impression that they have indeed improved the world or realize that it’s a lot harder than they thought. I came into the program with an open mind, knowing I could of course not change our current immigration system, instead wanting to learn more. The first weeks taught me a great deal about how immigration has changed and what our current immigration policies look like. I discovered stories of people trapped within this system, the ways in which I was helpless in their situations but also found comfort in a smile. I take for granted many things, from clean water and shoes, to my sleep. As I have gotten to know the people I visit at the Eloy Detention Center, the luxuries I have are apparent. In our busy lifestyles and fast-paced schedules it’s difficult to appreciate the little things.
I came into the program with an open mind, knowing I could of course not change our current immigration system, instead wanting to learn more.
After my first visit to Eloy I decided to visit the same people in the following weeks, thinking about the long-term purpose of my visits: to develop relationships. But it wasn’t until the second time when I realized the power of a smile and laughter. Something so simple as a smile had the power to change the outlook of situations in a place where there is little physical touch. I couldn’t do much to change their situation but I could be there. It was most rewarding to go back, have them remember me and consider me their friend. As they told me stories about their families back home and all they had endured in their journey to the US, we found moments to laugh. That’s when I knew I had made a difference, even if it was the slightest. Our laughter brought peace and comfort during a difficult time. It warmed my heart to have a couple women give me bracelets they made. I took them as a sign of friendship. While there’s little I can sometimes do, it delights me to know that with my friendship and by making them smile I can brighten up their mornings at least once a week.
Among the comfort I have found in my work, as a group we have also transitioned into home-stays, with local families. This family has also brought me comfort in feeling at home. Starting with the food that brings flavors from home to spending time together in the living room together, I feel I am home. Once again I’ve found the power of a smile in this family I now am a part of. Spending time with them and especially the adorable one year old brings great joy. Coming from a big family with 4 other siblings, including 3 younger than me, I forgot how much I missed spending time with my little sister. And my host mom reminds me a lot of my mom, making it easier to grow fond of them.
From family and making new friends, the last couple of weeks have been filled with comfort as I fit in at work and with my new family. I have also seen how much a smile can bring. I often don’t appreciate a smile but I have figured out it can bring so much joy from laughter or making someone forget their situation. In many ways a smile can change so much. I have come to appreciate a smile and look forward to whatever else the summer has in store for me.