LETTER: To island’s refugees, this community embraces you

Our family has had the fortune of meeting some of the families from Syria who have settled here. In the short time they have lived on our island they have reached out to our community in numerous ways — holding educational sessions on the situation in Syria, sharing their exotically delicious foods and telling their stories. They gather with us on the soccer sidelines to cheer for our children’s team. They share nursery rhyme finger games with young children. They express gratitude for any support extended to them. They have demonstrated a desire to be a part of and give back to this community.

The homogeny on Vashon has its limitations. When we see women wearing hijabs in the library or at the grocery store we notice the texture they add to our community; we feel excited about the prospects of learning about a different culture. Diversity offers opportunities to challenge our preconceptions and stereotypes about “the other” and broaden our understanding of the world. Our Syrian neighbors are a gift and this community is so lucky they took the risk to settle alongside us.

The acts of war that have been committed in Syria are unconscionable. Inviting displaced survivors to live amongst us imprints a small positive impact on this horrific situation. All families, deserve to have a place where they can live in peace and nurture their children.

Please know, Syrian neighbors, that Jeff Schnelz’s expressed sentiments are an anomaly on this island and that this community is full of people who embrace your presence (“No more refugees should come to Vashon,” Nov. 8, 2017). Our certainty of this assertion is grounded in 16 years of witnessing the generosity and inclusiveness of our village. Welcome to Vashon! May you come to feel that this island is a wonderful home for your families. May you feel the warmth of fellow islanders surrounding you.

— Leslie Enzian and family