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one of the biggest things that i’ve learned from my first year in budapest is that i am just one part of a much larger story. sometimes my role is grand, but often i am merely a background character.

at the ecumenical office of the RCH, with the kalunba social services association, and with my roma youth at te+en and at their high school i play a whole host of different roles. at times, i am taking on a leadership role and i’m front and center – really playing into the loud american trope haha. other times, i’m serving in a supportive role, helping someone else who’s directing the whole show and has the wider vision for how things should play out. and some days i’m just hanging out, playing a minute part in peoples days – offering a cup of tea, some crayons to color with, or a smiling face and a hug if i can see that it’s needed.

my work in budapest requires me to transform based on the circumstances and it’s one of the things that i adore so much about my placement here. through my work i get to play many parts, but i always remember that i am just one person in a larger saga. the interactions that i have with folks are simply one aspect of their day, and my goal is always to make their day a little brighter.

i was reminded of this today when a friend on facebook tagged me in an article about refugee integration in hungary. i read the article only to realize that i knew the author (i had hosted her and her colleague in budapest for a day while they were working on their project!) and i was even quoted in the article!

months ago a group of students from a journalism school had come to budapest to work on semester projects and do some in-depth reporting on a subject of their choice. two of the students had heard of the work that kalunba was doing, specifically tied to st. columba’s church of scotland and the RCH, and they got in touch with us about doing interviews etc during their time here. as a person with connections to all three of these organizations, i took on the role of coordinating their day with us and finding people for them to interview.

i met them at the congregation where they interviewed my pastor, my boss at kalunba, and a few of the refugees that i’ve worked with during my time in the city. for these students, i played simply a logistical role. for my hungarian boss, i was a supportive presence when the spotlight was shining right on her. and for the refugees who were being interviewed, i was a familiar face in the midst of a hard conversation – one who had been on the ground with them in hungary and could relate to parts of their story in a way that the journalism students could not.

when the day was over, the journalism students went back to meet up with their group and i never heard from them again. honestly, i hadn’t given it much thought – so much else has happened here in budapest and my pace of life is rather quick.

today, though, reading the article that was written by one of the students and photographed by the other, i was taken back to that winter day at st. columba’s, huddled over a cup of tea passing tissues to an iraqi woman as tears streamed down her face while she talked about how badly her daughter is treated by her peers in the hungarian school system. i was instantly back in that specific moment in time.

and i realized that all those small roles that i played that day helped to facilitate the creation of this amazing article detailing the struggles of integration for refugees who have found safety in hungary. this event that i had quickly forgotten in the mad dash of life had continued blossoming thanks to the dedicated efforts of the journalism students those months ago.

i am but one part of the story, and i’m honored to play whatever role i’m called to.


**click here to check out the fantastic story written by courtney columbus and photographed by cammeron neely, both from the walter cronkite school of journalism and mass communication at arizona state university. cammeron neely’s project, a video he created on the same topic, can be found here. the article includes gorgeous photos of people that i love here in budapest, as well as audio links to full interviews with folks, and the video of cammeron’s features many members of my community here in the city as well. please check these links out and share them with anyone you think might be interested in learning more about refugee integration and the struggles and challenges that are associated with it, especially in hungary.