Two local groups host storytime to benefit refugees

On June 17, the Takoma Parents Action Coalition (TPAC) held a toddler storytime to benefit refugees with the aim of promoting sharing, embracing differences and acceptance.

Over a dozen parents and their young children gathered at The Electric Maid for the event hosted by TPAC and Asylum Seekers Assistance Project (ASAP).

The goal of the event, according to an ASAP advisor, was to engage the children, teach them something and raise money for ASAP.

“The importance of the lesson was to show children different cultures and different backgrounds,” said Judith, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo who asked that her surname be withheld due to her refugee status. “It was important for me because I got to show the children where I’m from.”

During the hour-long event, Judith and ASAP founder and executive director Joan Hodges-Wu read the attendees “Mama Panya’s Pancakes.” The Kenyan children’s book focused on the event’s theme of sharing.

Throughout the book reading, Hodges-Wu and Judith taught the children words in Swahili, a native Kenyan language. The children were also had a chance to dance to Kenyan music and try on authentic Kenyan clothing.

TPAC is a new activist group in the Takoma Park area.

The organization aims to organize service events for families. Ruth Osorio, TPAC founder, formed the group after the election to continue her social activism while still involving her children.

“Many of us realized since having kids, we’d stopped doing the activism that really nourished our souls,” Osorio said. “We decided we no longer wanted to separate these parts of our identities. We can be parents and activists.”

The event was born after TPAC hosted a Toddler Dance Party where they raised nearly $2500 for the CAIR Coalition – a group dedicated to immigrant rights. Following that successful event, Hodges-Wu reached out to TPAC and they began to form the Storytime event.

Hodges-Wu explained that the event formed in part from an experience she had with a close friend’s child following the Trump Travel Ban.

“A friend reached out to me after the ban was issued and told me she was having trouble talking with her children about refugees,” Hodges-Wu said. “I offered to come over and talk with her kids and she invited her friends. All the parents afterwards and said it was a great way start the conversation and break the ice.”

Both ASAP and TPAC were born out of the new Trump administration.

Each group hopes to have more events and community outreach in the future.