IN HER OWN WORDS: Leaving Our Own Hopeprints in The Syracuse Community
BY NICOLE WATTS I PHOTO BY RAINE DUFRANE
The air had that warm twinge to it that breathes spring into a weary winter. As a friend and I sipped coffee outside a café on North Salina Street, the image that is embossed on my mind rose to the surface yet again. It’s an image of a procession of people adorned in unique clothing, bearing rich ethnic heritage of places I have never seen mixed in with other Americans. On the sidelines of the street there are bystanders, some casually noticing and others drawn in with intrigue. The delight is contagious, causing people to respond to the beckoning and join us.
That is Hopeprint. It’s a collection of people from all different walks of life, namely resettled refugees and American citizens, journeying together in an effort to leave a mark of hope on one another’s lives. We like to call ourselves a family, a place filled with friends and rich relationships. While you will find us out in the community, the core of who we are and what we do is the Hopeprint Home, a residential home which also serves as a community gathering place.
Programs such as ESL Conversation Groups, preparation for U.S. citizenship, job skills training, children and youth programming, and our College/Vocational School tutoring all seek to empower our community to be all that we can be. They also serve as a platform on which more meaningful, lasting relationships can be born, believing that these relationships are the key to true life transformation.
It all began when I first ventured off the highway via unusual exits and drove the unfamiliar streets of Syracuse’s Northside. I met and befriended a number of resettled refugees from Rwanda, Iraq, Burma, Bhutan and other nations, walking alongside them in their transition to life in the United States. As I did, I learned that in that year alone, Syracuse had welcomed more than 1,000 refugees to make a new home here, adding to the thousands that already are our neighbors. After months of commuting into their neighborhood, I knew it was time to make the move to make their community my own. Soon after, me and four others relocated from the suburbs into the heart of Syracuse’s Northside where we have lived since September 2010.
That decision served as an inciting incident in my life – “The thing that happens to throw your character into their story…into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen,” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). Every moment since, I have had the incredible pleasure of living the best chapter of my life, and watching others do the same as they join the procession of peoples of many nations dreaming of a better story, one that will make a difference.
Each day as I drive the streets of our community, I thank my God that I can live life in this place and have these precious people to call friends. All the things I thought I knew about those who are overcomers of war and trauma, as well as those who have a heritage of urban life, continue to be shaken and re-defined. Within each of us there is a Hopeprint, a unique way that we can leave a mark of hope on the world. As we walk alongside one another in this procession, leaving our own Hopeprints and being marked by others, this image of contagious hope seems to have color breathed into it…a culturally diverse community which offering safety, hope and opportunity to its members, and re-envisioning Syracuse for its possibilities.