Welcoming the Stranger, a nonprofit that serves immigrants and refugees in Bucks County, is showing the world we’re not as different as we think
By Samantha Bambino
While kids in America are riding the bus to school, kids on the other side of the world are clambering into a boat to sail to class. Fast cars and strangers are what we tell our kids to beware of, but those in Australia are warned to avoid the crocodiles. Though these examples have stark contrasts, commonalities are evident, such as the desire for an education and to keep children safe. On July 22, Welcoming the Stranger, Cultural Care Au Pair and photographer J. Sara Klatchko will celebrate diverse cultures in an interactive presentation entitled Kids Across the World, all while showing people we’re not as different as we may seem.
Formed in 1999 by retired pastor Sturgis Poorman, Welcoming the Stranger is an educational nonprofit that serves immigrants and refugees in the Bucks and Montgomery County areas, including Southampton, Langhorne, Bensalem and Levittown. Poorman received a calling to help these populations, and though his first class consisted of only eight students, the organization has substantially grown over the years.
To date, Welcoming the Stranger has served more than 3,000 students from 100 countries. Its main services, which are free, include teaching English as a second language, enhancing computer skills and preparing students for citizenship. In addition, volunteers assist with housing, connecting them to jobs and applying for medical care.
According to Meg Eubank, executive director of Welcoming the Stranger, there is a large immigrant population in Bucks County but nowhere near enough resources, even though it’s located right outside Philadelphia, which has an abundance.
Classes are limited to 12–15 students and because of the small size, Eubank explained how it’s very likely each student will speak a different language and come from a different country. While some may see this as a challenge, Welcoming the Stranger sees this as a positive thing — people from all walks of life can come together to learn and share experiences.
With this in mind, Welcoming the Stranger called upon J. Sara Klatchko to present her photography collection, Kids Across the World, as part of the upcoming fundraising event. For a decade, Klatchko has been traveling to countries to photograph children of various cultures doing everyday activities like going to school or doing chores.
In a 300-plus slide presentation featuring her photography, Klatchko will tell the stories of joy, sorrow and even danger that correspond with each child she met along her journeys.
“It’s stepping into the life of the child and seeing the world through their perspective,” she said.
While the presentation will be educational, Klatchko wants attendees to enjoy themselves and get immersed in the different cultures, all while seeing commonalities between the child’s life and their own. Though we have our own traditions, we all are affected by global concerns and share universal needs for protection, education and health care.
“The main message is, no matter where you are in the world, everyone is connected,” Eubank said of the presentation.
Children and adults are invited to attend the event, which is pay as you wish with a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for children. A raffle will take place with items donated by Klatchko and local businesses such as Shayna Papir, Learning Express, Uva, Cultural Care Au Pair, Art in the Pod, Oishi, Rita’s Water Ice, Manhattan Bagel and Jules Pizza. Every penny raised goes directly to Welcoming the Stranger’s programming to help immigrants live locally.
Cultural Care Au Pair’s Lindsay Pikovsky is a co-sponsor of the event. The organization places visiting au pairs with Bucks County families, and many benefit from language services offered by Welcoming the Stranger.
“They’re here temporarily but they’re learning a lot,” Eubank said.
The event will take place July 22 from 2–4 p.m. at Bryn Gweled Homestead Community Center located at 1805 Meadow Road, Southampton.