I was planning to continue with my backpacking trip this week, but felt the need to highlight a local tragedy and also comment on our ability to come together as a community when we choose to.
For those familiar with my blog, you know that I’m from Boise, Idaho. What you may not know about my city is that we welcome several refugees here every year. In fact, more than 11,000 refugees have resettled in Boise in the past 20 years. More than 42,000 people in the Boise area were born abroad and 72,000 speak a language other than English at home. For a state that is 93% white, these are some big numbers for our capital.
Last year, a real gem, the Boise International Market (BIM) opened. The BIM helps immigrants, refugees and Idaho born entrepreneurs start new businesses. The BIM offers affordable spaces, business development, marketing and mentoring for new entrepreneurs.
I have visited the BIM on several occasions. In fact, it’s become the regular ‘go-to’ place for my friends before we head to the movies. It started as a joke after seeing the Avengers with Tony Stark’s repeated comments on trying shawarma, as we all thought that we should try it too. The food and environment at BIM was so amazing that we keep going back. Now it’s even a tradition that we go enjoy some shawarma before any new Marvel movie.
While I support BIM because I genuinely enjoy their products, I also do so because I think it’s important. I’ve worked with immigrants and refugees both here and in California. I am familiar with some of the extra struggles they have simply because of who they are and where they come from. And that is also why I have always been so proud of the Boise community for recognizing the importance of supporting human rights and welcoming refugees to our state.
So I was equally devastated earlier this month when I read that a fire destroyed the BIM. Fortunately there were no injuries, but all of the 16 businesses were consumed in the blaze. The majority of vendors were refugees selling food, clothes, jewelry and other items from the Middle East, Africa and India. Most businesses lost their entire inventory in the blaze.
When I read the headline about BIM, I have to admit, I cried. Having experienced a house fire where my mom lost almost everything, I know how shocking and devastating this can be. I also know that dealing with insurers can be tedious and confusing, even for those that are familiar with how it works in the United States. I couldn’t help but think that many of these families have already lost so much in their lives, that they’re due a break.
But then I started reading an article about the Boise community coming together, not only to give donations, but also asking what else they could do to help. Refugee organizations, such as World Relief, The International Rescue Committee, and The Agency for New Americans, along with the community as a whole want to help the families through this difficult time and ultimately, to rebuild their businesses. I read about the couple that launched BIM, cancelling their wedding that they were out of town for in order to return to Boise to help the vendors and assess the damage. I read all of this and was so grateful to be part of a community that will truly band together and do what is necessary to help during this trying time.
Boise isn’t perfect-we have our own problems with social injustices. But moments like these give me a little hope for the world. Hope that we can put aside our differences and care for others, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
For more information about the market: http://www.boiseinternationalmarket.com/
To donate or to read the amazing comments from the local community: https://www.gofundme.com/BMIFamily-Fund/