Madeline Bosma believes it is her duty to welcome strangers.
For the past seven years, she has rolled out the welcome mat by volunteering for the Refugee and Immigrant Service Providers Network of Tucson, a coalition of more than 150 stakeholders dedicated to strengthening refugee families by illuminating issues that impact successful acculturation and working collaboratively for change.
“Part of what I have to do as an American — and as an American Indian — is to, first of all, put myself into someone else’s shoes. I have empathy and I want to help. I want to make life easier for someone else,” said Bosma, a member of the Picuris Pueblo tribe of New Mexico who worked for many years as an administrator with the U.S. Department of Education and is on the leadership team for the providers network.
Her background is symbolic of the diverse membership, which includes health-care organizations, public education, law enforcement, the Arizona Department of Economic Security and other state and federal resources, local businesses, social services, resettlement agencies and refugees themselves.
That diversity will be on display at the Tucson World Refugee Day Celebration 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Catalina High School, 3645 E. Pima St. The event is free and open to the public.
Bosma is excited about the opportunity for Tucsonans to share in the exposure to other cultures that she has experienced as a volunteer.
“I have been invited into other people’s homes — last week I went to the first birthday party of a Bhutanese baby — and been invited to join in different cultural experiences, which has been such a blessing. It has opened up another world for me,” she said.
She said her volunteerism has further boosted the respect for other cultures that she garnered while watching her husband, Boyd Bosma, who was a human- and civil-rights specialist with the National Education Association in Washington, D.C., for many years.
“He helped me to see the value of respecting other people — not only blacks and Hispanics and Indians and whites and Asians in our country — but to see how valuable every life is around the world,” Bosma said. “And we all really want the very same things: The best for our children, the best for ourselves, a clean environment and a place to live where we can be safe and protected. What is so different about refugees, except the they have been through absolute hell to get here?”
The resident of SaddleBrooke strongly encourages others to consider volunteering for providers networks or other local organizations that support refugees.
“We are quite a distance from Tucson, but that doesn’t make a difference. These people came from thousands of miles away; the least I can do is open my heart, hands and head to help them,” she said.