Written by Megan Pipe, Program Manager
I admit my bias, but from where I sit as Program Manager, the Cross Cultural connections and partnerships fostered through Sister Circles are some of the most extraordinary expressions of Treetops Collective’s work. The power of both parties engaging with each other through the lens of mutuality as they build an authentic relationship and friendship, is truly transformational. Experiencing firsthand the deeply rooted common humanity we all possess, while at the same time honoring and intentionally learning from each other’s differences is such a gift! Consistency and relationship are at the heart of this program.
And yet, as I sit to write this story, I have some hesitations and fear. The last thing I want to do is contribute to the false narrative of the white savior. This is a story of community, and what active pursuit of healthy community really looks like.
Early on this year, my mom volunteered to be a Cross Cultural Partner and has spent the last several months getting to know and love a family of New Americans living a few blocks away from my sister and I. We all, as a family, have enjoyed spending time with Neamat and her two kids. I get to hold a unique perspective, as I’m not only involved as the Program Manager at Treetops, but also as the daughter of Deb, the Cross Cultural Partner to Neamat, whom I now have developed a genuine friendship with outside of work as well. Earlier this year when the Treetops team was matching trained Cross Cultural Partners to Sister Circles Program Members, I immediately knew I wanted my mom paired with Neamat. They’re both single moms who relate to the challenges of raising a child with special needs. Their friendship flourished immediately; it has been a joy to witness so up close and personally.
Neamat shared with my mom that for the last several months she’d been working to buy a wheelchair accessible van with the support of her Case Worker from Bethany Christian Services. Having a son in a wheelchair makes borrowing others’ cars and/or taking the bus extremely difficult. The Sister Circles Program includes a Matched Savings Program and Neamat was diligent in saving for 6 months during the peak onset of the pandemic, earning her dollar for dollar match with the purchase of this van in mind. She was getting so close to her goal! My mom, being talented in needlework, decided to knit a few scarves and facilitate a mini Facebook auction to raise funds that would go towards the van as well. Her post was shared by close friends and family, and after a few days we had raised several hundred dollars. Just as we were getting ready to “close” the auction, my sister received a text from a number she didn’t know. This individual had no prior connection to our family besides seeing the auction post shared by a mutual friend online. She explained that after seeing the post she couldn’t just scroll past. God had placed it on her heart that she needed to give, and her obedience to that calling was overwhelming. We were blown away by the amount she was donating. When pairing this generous gift with the many others who either donated or purchased the scarves through the auction, we had enough for Neamat to pay off her remaining balance on the van! We could hardly believe it.
As I mentioned earlier, this entire experience has revolved around community in action. Our family has been on the receiving end of incredible generosity time and time again, provided by the fellowship of community. My mom is currently driving a car that she didn’t buy, it was gifted to her by long time friends who saw her need and stepped in when she couldn’t purchase a new car herself. I also am driving a car that was gifted to me as I was getting back on my feet after living abroad for two years. My sister has had friends and family help her in huge ways with purchasing a car when she was strapped. People, oftentimes anonymously or distantly connected, have helped get our family through challenging seasons more times than I can recount. My mom knows what it feels like to depend on the selflessness of others, to lean on her community as they have helped move her forward through especially hard times. Because of this, when she became aware of Neamat’s efforts to buy her own van, she was inspired to move and do what she could. It’s as simple as knitting scarves - using your unique gifts and abilities to support a friend. Simply doing what you can, using what you have. This is the richness of community; we are in this together. We leverage our resources, time and connections for each other. We receive when necessary and give freely when we’re able. Neamat, just days after receiving her van, purchased an entire lamb to deliver fresh meat to her neighbors and friends as a way to celebrate. We allow others to show up for us because we’ll show up for the next person.
Getting to play a small part in this story, both professionally and personally, has again displayed to me the value of cross cultural friendship and relationship. Women who may not have otherwise met, have formed a bond that transcends cultural and language barriers. Their newfound sisterhood has allowed them to recognize themselves in one another. This kind of connection is a reminder that despite our differences, our commonality reigns. The image of Neamat signing the title of her very own van is imprinted on my heart. The pride on her face as she drove her family back home, I will never forget. Not only is consistency and relationship at the heart of our Sister Circles Program, it’s at the heart of community transformation. Together we can change our communities, one friendship at a time.