Asylum Seekers Celebrate Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving dinner table will have turkey, with a side of fried plantains.

As many Americans enjoy their Thanksgiving traditions, some are experiencing the holiday for the first time.

“I’m so happy,” said Patricia Yapo, an asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast.

Patricia, her husband and two young kids moved to Portland, Maine a few months ago. Through a mentoring program called Welcoming the Stranger, they met Nancy Markowitz.

“They call me Mama, I’m their American mother,” said Markowitz. She’s been helping them find housing and get settled in the United States.

So when an American holiday as important as Thanksgiving came around, Markowitz knew she had to show the Yapo’s how it’s celebrated.

“That’s a big turkey!” said one of the kids, as their mother cooked fried plantains on the stove. The two families enjoyed traditional Thanksgiving foods, with Africa side dishes.

Other asylum seekers in Portland enjoyed the holiday with newfound friends.

“We are becoming a family,” said Grace Bueso. She’s an asylum seeker from the Congo, who is celebrating her first Thanksgiving with her roommate Hamda Elma, from Djibouti.

“It’s the first time I saw a turkey!” said Elma.

The women said they are most thankful for their friendship. When Bueso, a Catholic, learned she would be living with a Muslim, she was scared. But through conversation and spending time together, learned they have much more in common than she thought.

“We live in peace and love,” said Elma. “We are all human.”

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