OWASCO — There’s a saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
That saying rang true Sunday morning in Emerson Park during “Angling for Acceptance,” a fishing and barbecue event, organized by Refugee and Immigrant Self- Empowerment (RISE) Syracuse and Love CNY ThinkTank, for refugee families living in Syracuse.
The goal of the event was not only to teach the families a new skill, but also expose them to a different part of the community and give them the opportunity to do something different, said Krysten Schuler and Melissa Stefanec, both Love CNY ThinkTank board members.
“The whole deal is to get people on their feet, get them off public assistance,” Schuler said. “I think it’s one of those nonpartisan issues that people can get behind.”
Thirteen adults and eight children took a van from Syracuse to Emerson Park, where different volunteers taught the families the basics of fishing — how to bait a hook, which fish are safe to eat and how to cast their rods. Thanks to donations from the community, Love CNY ThinkTank was able to purchase fishing rods, bait and tackle and fishing licenses for the participants to take home with them, as well as host a barbecue after the fishing lessons.
For some of the participants, especially the adults, learning how to fish was a nostalgic experience. Many of their ancestors fished for food in their native Somalia.
“Traditionally and culturally, for us, (fishing is) what we used to do for a living,” said Haji Adan, the executive director of RISE who came to America from Somalia in 2006. “We used to go to the river and get fish.”
“It’s kind of a lost skill,” Stefanec added. “They’re getting to learn a skill their parents had but they didn’t get to develop because of the circumstances.”
Mohamed Mohamed, a Somali refugee who came to America in 2014, said through a translator that he is eager to learn how to fish.
“(I want) to learn how to do fishing in America,” Mohamed said. “Hopefully in the future I can make money from the fish I catch.”
Twelve-year-old Abdi Adan caught the first fish of the day, a small trout. Adan said he has never been fishing before and it “felt great” to catch his first fish.