Every day in our Noah’s Ark galleries, we tell an immigration story: animals and people leave their homes to take a journey through a storm and finally arrive in a new land filled with possibilities for a better future. As the head of Noah’s Ark, I often think about the parallel of that ancient flood story to the harrowing immigration stories we hear about today.
Our mission states that the Skirball is a place of meeting guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger. Since missions are meant to be practiced, last September, in honor of National Welcoming Week, I connected with a small organization called the San Fernando Valley "No Estas Solo" Welcome Center for Refugee Children. Like the Skirball, No Estas Solo is a place of welcome. Located just nine miles away, they open their doors to unaccompanied children from Central America who have come to the San Fernando Valley seeking refuge. No Estas Solo offers hope and healing in the form of legal assistance, emotional support, tutoring, and other resources to help meet the basic needs of these children.
With such a closely aligning mission, No Estas Solo seemed like a great partner for our Build a Better World program, in which we encourage visitors to take action beyond their own needs in order to make the world a better place—from helping animals and the environment to helping people in need, like the children at No Estas Solo. My hope was to create a hands-on project that Skirball family visitors could make to celebrate and encourage the children who were being helped by No Estas Solo.
So I introduced myself to the staff at No Estas Solo and asked if they would accept a welcome banner made for their kids by our young Skirball visitors. Ninette Ayala, one of the coordinators, accepted our offer with the kind of surprised gratitude that made me realize how meaningful this new partnership would become.
For a week in September, kids and families visiting Noah’s Ark helped create a multilingual welcome sign with their painted handprints carefully pressed on it.
When young visitors to Noah’s Ark made the welcome banner last year, they practiced working together, taking action beyond their own needs, and embracing the stranger. The immigration story of the kids at No Estas Solo—who have journeyed bravely through a storm to come to a new land—is an old story that must continue to be told. I’m very proud that we have been given the opportunity to be one of the tellers of this story and to help young newcomers to feel welcome and less alone. I’m proud to be partners with our friends at No Estas Solo. We are not strangers to each other anymore.
—Nina Silver, Head of Noah’s Ark, April 2017