Muskie Tigers host refugee stories

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Kraft | Mentoring club Muskie Tigers hosted refugee students from Withrow High School on campus. Withrow senior Asmaa Masto recalled her journey as a Syrian refugee and the audience pondered their conception of home.

Asmaa Masto, a senior at Withrow High School, shared her story of fleeing government turmoil in Syria and awaiting resettlement in Lebanon as 45 Xavier students sat gripped by her bravery in Arrupe Overlook on Feb. 12.

The event, called Home is Where the Heart Is, was facilitated by Muskie Tigers, a club on campus specifically for tutoring and mentoring refugee and immigrant students at Withrow.  The night focused on celebrating the stories of home within all of us and understanding what home is for others.

Masto’s mother, Ibtisam Masto, catered Syrian cuisine — which drew many students in by their noses. “I want everybody to know my country from my food,” Ibtisam Masto said with a smile across her face.

After Masto had finished presenting to the room the crowd dispersed into small groups of Xavier students and Withrow students. Each group reflected on the presentation and their own experiences with questions that focused on “home,” such as “What does home feel like to you.”

Muskie Tigers president Nick Foley thought that Masto’s storytelling and experience finding a sense of home in different countries were a good fit for the event.

“I think one of the most powerful messages that came from Asmaa’s story was that despite some of the difficulties that she faced in Syria, there was still that natural sense of belonging that made it feel most like home to her,” Foley said.

Muskie Tigers vice president Kelsey Kraft ensured that the club worked hard to prevent the event from exploiting the experiences of the Withrow students.

“We both just tapped into any people we thought might have knowledge of planning this type of event or knowledge of working with the population just to try to make sure we were doing right by them,” Kraft said.

Masto shared that she loved to tell her story so that listeners can learn about what her life was like before arriving in America with her parents and brothers.

Besides presenting to crowds, Masto also shares stories through writing. She is currently working on a book titled Women Beyond the War”about her mother.

“It is everything about my mother, because she is the strong woman who (protects) her children from the war,” Masto said as she glanced at her mother across the room.

Megan Scharrer,  a sophomore social work and Spanish major, came to the event to prepare for her future. Scharrer eventually hopes to work to reform immigration policy and in just a few weeks will lead an Alternative Breaks trip to Boise, Idaho, that will focus on refugee resettlement.

“I know on my trip I’ll be listening a lot, so I wanted to work on that skill as well for when I get to work with the refugees in Boise,” Scharrer said. “I just overall wanted to listen and to hear stories because I think it is very interesting and a great learning opportunity.”

Foley felt that “showing the support of the Xavier community and expanding it beyond what (Withrow students) see at Muskie Tigers twice a week was a really special message that the Xavier community could send.”

By: Brittany Wells | Staff Writer