About the Author: Lillian deValcourt-Ayala serves as Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome.
As each year of my Foreign Service career passes, it does not get easier to spend Thanksgiving away from home. I can bake pumpkin pie and try to roast a large turkey in a European-sized oven, but recreating the spirit of the holiday takes much more thought, more heart.
It has been rewarding, together with my husband and the American diplomatic community in Rome, to give of ourselves – our time, our kinship, our helping hands – on holidays to those among our much larger international family who are in need.
On Thanksgiving Thursday, a small group of embassy volunteers led by Ambassador Ertharin Cousin visited an orphanage and served and shared a Thanksgiving meal, complete with the uniquely American cheesecake donated by Eli’s in Chicago, to immigrant families from all over the world. While not everyone gobbled up the roast turkey, there were no crumbs left on the dessert plates.
Most of the immigrants in the transition center where we served lunch are newly arrived from war-torn countries like Afghanistan and other poor nations like Haiti where a large percentage of the population goes to bed hungry every night. Far away from home, they are doing their best to start a new life helped by volunteers and staff of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic non-governmental organization. One of the immigrants from Nigeria spoke with great pride to the Ambassador about how she and many others have come together to start a grassroots support network called the People of Peace.
While we missed our own families on this holiday, we gave thanks for our many blessings with new friends and reinforced our commitment to put an end to international hunger through support of social safety nets like that of the orphanage and transition center. Ours truly was a Thanksgiving without borders.