In the April 2016 General Women’s Session of the Church, the story was shared of a woman named Toni, who formed a friendship with a young refugee from Guinea that changed their lives. We learned more about how their unique relationship began and why it will last forever.
Toni came home from work one evening, ready to relax. She turned on the TV and sat back, flipping through channels until one caught her eye. A program about inner-city children piqued her interest.
“They talked about how there are things in all of our communities, across the nation, where people need us,” Toni said. “At that point I knew I needed to do something in my community.”
Not knowing how or what to do, Toni followed the prompting and reached out to friends who worked for various community organizations. One friend taught English as a second language and had a student who needed a mentor. Her friend was going to contact the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, which pairs youth with positive adult figures who can encourage and support them.
She was convinced that Toni would be the perfect match as a “big sister” for this student, Fatou, a refugee who had been in the United States for several years. When they first met, Toni noticed Fatou’s shy, nervous nature.
“I wondered, ‘Does my friend know what she’s talking about? She says we’re the perfect match, and I’m not sure because I don’t know if we’re connecting,’” Toni said.
On their first outing together, Toni asked Fatou where she was from and discovered that although Fatou had grown up in Guinea, she was born in Côte d’Ivoire. Suddenly Toni knew her connection with Fatou was not coincidental.
Several years earlier, Toni’s parents had served a mission for the Church in Côte d’Ivoire. On their mission, her parents were in a car accident and her mother passed away.
“At that moment, I just knew that this was a relationship that was supposed to be meaningful and long-lasting. I like to think that my mother was Fatou’s family’s guardian angel who brought them safely here,” she said.
Toni has seen Fatou grow from a quiet 13-year-old girl to a confident 20-year-old. Today, after seven years of constant friendship, Toni believes she has gained just as much from Fatou as Fatou may have gained from her.
“I think she’s such an amazing individual. We all get discouraged, but it’s just not even a part of her mindset to give up or to quit. She just keeps going with all the things she’s been through. She has goals and dreams, and she knows what she wants out of life.”
There are opportunities all around to help people in need of friendship, guidance, and support. What could you do to reach out?
Was there a time you gave or received service that changed your perspective? We want to hear about it! Sharing your story could help somebody just like you.
Email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject line “MC Share.”