2013 Everyday Hero - Alice Check

Alice Check is receiving the 2013 Everyday Hero Award for her personal outreach to a Bantu Somali family in the Beaverton area... which has led to her connections with many other Bantu Somali refugee families. Alice did this completely as a compassionate and caring neighbor. Although she first met this family through her church's Holiday basket program, her continued involvement was not because she was representing an organization or acting as a social worker or teacher. It was simply a human, neighbor to neighbor, connection. Alice has been very consistent in her support for this family and has extended herself to the Somali family's extended family and friends. Obviously, there have been language challenges and cultural challenges for both Alice and the family, but they have persevered together. 

Alice Check has co-led Southminster Presbyterian Church's Holiday Basket program for several years. In 2010, while working on this program, she met a Somali Bantu family. She learned that they were among the Somali Bantu refugees in the Beaverton area, that after being driven out of Somalia, they had lived in Kenyan refugee camps for 15 years until the US admitted them as refugees in 2004. They had lived in Pennsylvania before moving to Beaverton. Alice learned that their ancestors had been brought to Somalia as slaves from other parts of Africa, where they were oppressed by ethnic Somalis. The adults had lived as farmers in small villages and were denied access to education, jobs, and any possibility of advancement. 

When Alice met the family (consisting of a mother, father, and 5 children), they were living in an empty apartment with nothing but a TV. Church members helped provide furniture and clothes, and she started dropping in on them to see if she could assist them. She became connected to the family, their extended family, and neighbors. Alice learned that of the huge cultural adjustments expected of the Bantu Somali families here sin the U.S.. The adults do not read or write in any language. There are often 8 or more children in refugee families and that the idea of "parenting" is very different in their culture. The adults worked from the time they were small children and never had access to toys, parks, playgrounds, or other children's activities; consequently, they do not try to provide these things for their children. Since they never attended school, they have no books in their homes and do not know how to prepare their children for school or for life in the US.

Alice began assisting "her" family with transportation, shopping, filling out forms, job searches, and accessing information. She tried to help connect them to the community around them, and to expose the children to activities such as parks, playgrounds, libraries, parades, fairs, museums, plays, swimming lessons, and so forth that they would otherwise never experience. She says that this interaction with them has definitely expanded her horizon, and she tries to expand theirs. In the two years since Alice met them, the family has had two more babies, and they named the latest Alice, for her.

An "Everyday Hero" is: an member of the community who responds to needs of those she meets...simply because she believes we all are neighbors on the same life journey. That perfectly describes Alice Check ... someone who simply responds with compassion and practical care to a need, without expecting any reward or recognition.