By Sadie Boonin
The past few days have been filled with goodbyes. Friday afternoon consisted of hugs and tears as we wished our young campers well; after growing close to them during the week it was hard to think of never seeing them again. Tonight we did a meaningful exercise in appreciating our fellow PNW Mitzvah Corps teens by giving shoulder taps to people who we felt certain phrases applied to; “tap someone who you can always rely on” or “someone who makes you feel special.” Tomorrow morning we will say one last goodbye, to each other and to this intense, meaningful, unforgettable two weeks. Moments like these are sad, for we will miss each other deeply, but the lessons learned and the friendships made will come home with us, like the overpriced souvenirs and the sand stuck in our shoes.
Our camp is over, but our fight for refugee and immigrant rights has just begun. We have discussed the question “what next?” many times, in our daily debrief groups, with the IRC, and at the Jewish Family Services workshop. Especially with today’s political climate, it is vital to stand up for immigrants and welcome the stranger. There are many ways, big and small, to do that. Many of us will continue to lobby for better legal rights, reach out to local organizations to donate and volunteer, protest injustice, and raise awareness. No matter our course of action, one thing is certain: we will never forget the campers we met. We will never again see refugees as some strange, impersonal concept. We will never again lump everyone into a nameless, faceless group. And we will never lose our passion and love for those in need of support and help coming to a new land.