In 2010, Randi Freundlich was working as a social worker in Allston and Brighton, where—thanks to her involvement in parenting and family programs—she was meeting people who came to America from all over the world.
“What I was so fascinated by was that the things the parents were dealing with—their stories—were the regular parenting challenges,” she says. “But on top of that, there was so much else that had to do with being an immigrant and having no family support, or not understanding how the schools work, not understanding cultural differences or different styles of raising children.”
Freundlich found the children especially fascinating, and these families inspired her to begin a series she called “Children of the World | Boston.” She later began interviewing kids and parents to really capture the full picture of their experience. She’s since collected the stories of 55 families from 55 different countries.
Last year, she received a grant from the Somerville Arts Council to photograph immigrant children here in Somerville, and many of those images are collected in a 2017 calendar, sales of which benefit the immigrant advocacy group The Welcome Project. She’s also collaborated with The Welcome Project for a series of kids’ photography classes. The photos taken by participating children will be on display alongside Freundlich’s at city hall later this year.
“I’m proud of Somerville,” says Freundlich, who’s currently looking for more local families who would like to have their children photographed. “I’m proud to be living here.”
We asked her to share some of her favorite photos from the series below. You can learn more about Children of the World | Boston, find Freundlich’s contact information and order a calendar at randifreundlichphotography.com.
This story originally appeared in the January/February print edition of Scout, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.
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“If American people went to Guatemala, then they would feel what it’s like to be in a new country, where everything is strange. Maybe then they would treat immigrants better here.” — Brandon & Kevin, Guatemala
“We should do all the things in the culture even if you’re not in Nepal, like the holidays, speak the language even if you only know a little bit. I have not been treated badly, but I know some immigrants are. Everybody should not treat them badly, because they can stay in the U.S. They don‘t have to leave unless they want to.” — Adrine & Syalomee, Nepal
“It was scary when we got here—everything was different. It was winter and we only had shorts and flip-flops. We were refugees and didn’t have winter clothes.” Zahraa, Iraq
“Our major concern is to grow them as global human beings. Not only bound in one tradition, bound in one culture. The universe is open for them, whatever they want to learn. They should learn only good. Their names mean this – Izn is “permission for good”. It’s an Arabic word. And she’s Azm, it means “determination for good”. So we plan to grow them as good human beings, our utmost potential.” — Izn & Azm’s father, Pakistan
“They can’t have freedom in El Salvador. They’re killing them there so they can get their money and stuff like that. But, the police are trying to get all the bad guys. So they have to get freedom in America.” — Yajaira, El Salvador
“I consider myself American, as a citizen, but … it’s not where my roots come from … I was just born here. ‘American’ is just a label, it doesn’t mean anything. My blood is from Dominica.” — Van Ado, Dominica
“When I left Algeria in the ’90s it was really bad because of terrorism. It scarred me for life. In my family, my cousin’s husband was killed. My dad worked for the government, so we were always worried—is he home safe? Is he gonna be killed, God forbid? When I got the green card, I was one of the lucky ones .. I miss my parents, my family, my friends. I don’t miss how the government runs the country, I don’t miss the lack of safety. I had a wonderful childhood. But the bad memories took over.” — Maya & Sofia’s mother, Algeria
“I didn’t feel safe there. It is much safer here. When you live in a country like El Salvador it’s incomparable. More than anything the thieves, the rent, a lot of killings. Here, I speak to my kids in Spanish. I cook the popusas, and there is always the music. I’m always talking to them about the family we have over there; when my mom comes here she shows them photos of El Salvador and I tell them, ‘This is your country.’”? — Nelson’s mother, El Salvador