How do you tell a mother that her husband is unlikely to make it through the weekend?
When I got the call from Amal, whose family had escaped from Sudan, we were already several months into the pandemic, and I thought I had prepared myself for anything. But I didn’t see this coming.
I had known Amal for several years, and three of her children were enrolled at our Columbus campus. I was the only adult Arabic speaker she knew, and she wanted me to call the emergency room to check on her husband. He had been rushed to the hospital hours before, grasping for breath.
“We’re afraid we have bad news,” the doctor on duty told me. “Ibrahim probably won’t make it past Sunday.”
Throughout the pandemic, our parents and families, who are among the most severely impacted by Covid-19, have needed us to face this challenge together. Many of them have been on the frontlines themselves, working at the poultry plants that have helped keep food on our tables or staffing the warehouses that have kept our economy in motion. They have put their safety at risk so the rest of us could carry on as conveniently as possible. And they have done this after surviving the unspeakable horrors of war, displacement, and hunger.
This year, everything we’ve learned about how to ease their transition to America has become harder. Imagine trying to explain how to use Zoom to a newly arrived student and her mother, both refugees from the conflict in Congo, who only speak Swahili. Imagine watching as another child, a seventh-grade survivor from the war in Syria, goes off-camera for a moment, only to return to his virtual classroom holding a younger sibling and a bottle of formula.
And imagine fielding that call from Amal. Imagine having to interpret the words "he might not make it through the weekend” and hearing the wailing on the other end of the phone. After 48 hours of touch-and-go vital signs, Amal’s husband was eventually released from the hospital. But Ibrahim’s health remains in jeopardy, and he and his refugee family must now contend with lost income and the prospect of prolonged illness.
These are the stories I wish I didn’t have to share with you this year. I wish I could tell you about another year of academic feats, of goals scored by our soccer teams, of more students whose lives have been transformed by our nationally recognized English proficiency curriculum. But the truth is, we have struggled with things more elemental — with keeping our students and their families healthy and communicating accurate information on Covid-19 and how to prevent it.
While we continue to struggle with these priorities, we also know that our students will fare better when they are back in the classroom. As we look forward to that day, we need your help to get ready for in-person school again. From individual student safety kits to sanitation stations in every class, our restart plan relies on your generous support. Please consider donating to our back-to-school campaign today.