This article was first printed on April 9 in International Student Voice Magazine. You can also view the article here http://www.isvmag.com/international-students-she-is-an-angel-grandmother-friend/.
Francis Satina was brought to our attention by a group of international students. Meet the woman who has been an angel, a grandmother, and a friend to so many.
Hearing about Francis Satina
It was another typical cold, snowy, February day in Ohio. It was late afternoon, the sun had started to go down. Members of the ISV Magazine staff bundled up and headed out to meet Francis Satina. We’ve heard so much about this one individual from several International students at the University of Akron, we had to meet her in person.
Francis volunteers for a program called Akron International Friendship. This non-profit organization provides several resources for international students, but they have one program that helps international students when they first arrive in the U.S. These students are called “first weekers” and Francis works mostly with these students. She opens her home until students find a place to stay. But from what we read from students, she does more than just provide a place to sleep.
“She came and picked me up at the airport with her two grandchildren,” Nelly Berríos from Nicaragua shared. “Francis carried a U.S. flag, which I now keep in my apartment next to my Nicaraguan flag. It meant so much to me. Through her and this symbolic gift, I continued feeling the warm welcome to the U.S.”
“Mrs. Satina, a very good hearted woman to accept two strangers to sleep at her place and provide us food for free,” Saruul Galbadrakh from Mongolia started. “Without her, I would have more problems overcoming cultural shock. She is an example of good Americans and let me see American people from a bright side.”
“Although I was trying to find place to get in as fast as I could because Mrs. Satina was not supposed to keep us at her house for a long time, she told to us that once I selected a few places that I may like she must come to see and “approve” the selection,” Kushtrim Krasniqi from the Republic of Kosova said. “She wanted to make sure that I found a good place to stay, no matter how long it would take.”
The remarkable comments continued in several more pages from several more students. We had to meet this “angel”.
Going to meet the ‘angel’
We were able to get her phone number from Nelly and set up a time for an interview. We arrived at a cozy condominium complex about 20 minutes late due to work traffic. Knocked on the wrong door and by the time we finally found Francis she greeted us with a warm hello and smile.
“Oh don’t worry about being late!” She laughed with a warm smile.
We entered her home through the garage and down a set of steps. Through a hallway we found ourselves in a home roomy to say the least, and decorated with artifacts from around the world. We find an Albanian cookbook, along with bonsai trees, a Budda sculpture and Chinese paintings.
We sit down and through windows from floor to ceiling, able to see the snow gently falling in the woods behind her home.
We notice Francis stands about five feet tall as she asked if we would like anything to drink. She brings us water and sits down with us.
“Francis, we had to meet you. We’ve heard so many great things about you from international students,” we said.
Francis smiles. She reminded us of our grandmothers back home.
“I looked at helping international students,” Francis started. “…I have four children. If they went overseas would anyone help them?”
Francis told us she took in her first international students 20 years ago. Yes, 20 years ago! One was from Brazil and the other from Bosnia. From there she’s housed students from all over the world: Qatar, Tunisia, Egypt, Siberia, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, just to name a few . She’s helped students find homes, supplies, and most importantly, she made students feel welcomed in a new country.
“I have to say I can’t take all the credit,” Francis started. “Please know I am a ‘middle man’. If it wasn’t for Donna Early from my church I wouldn’t be able to help. She is just great. Donna is able to get supplies from the church and she always drops off so much stuff! My garage is full of supplies, like food, soap, blankets, furniture.”
Listening to Francis we could tell she is modest and gives credit where credit is due. But we think she makes it possible to help international students because she is a genuine person willing to do whatever she can to help.
Francis: A lifetime of volunteering
“I started volunteering back during World War II,” Francis explained. “Hospitals needed help. I was about 12 or 13 putting milk cartons on trays.”
Francis was born in Akron, Ohio and is part of a family of 10. She took some courses in business college, but did not earn a degree. For 25 years she owned a travel agency and said that’s how she developed an interest in international travel. It was when her husband became sick she left the travel agency business to her daughter to run. Her husband passed away five years ago.
Now at the age of 83 she is no where near slowing down.
“You can sit in the rocking chair and watch t.v. all day, but [volunteering] gives me something to do and gives me a purpose,” Francis explained. “The days I don’t have anything to do, I’m terrible! I’ll fall asleep for four or five hours. I don’t have four or five hours to waste, I’m 83!”
A big, international family
We heard about Francis from the group of “first weekers” she helped this past year. They are still very close with Francis and visit her often.
“It’s like I have my children again,” Francis laughs. “Who gets to have another family at this age? Plus, they’re past their teenage years!”
“Plus, no labor this time!” We added. All of us laughed together.
It’s pretty obvious the students feel the same way about Francis.
“She is so appreciative of international students,” Nelly said. “She welcomed so many [students] for Thanksgiving and for Christmas! She thinks about everything!! She takes into account every detail, every need, is so self-giving and sacrificial!”
“She is cheerful, childish and insightful lady who is still young at heart,” Saruul said. “Compared to grandmothers in my country who are so old, uncapable of driving and going shopping, she is so young which surprised me a lot.”
“My wife and I are blessed because we are waiting a baby soon,” Krushtrim started. “Once I told Mrs. Satina that we are expecting a baby she was so excited such that she started to buy gifts for our baby, although we still didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. Mrs.Satina gave us some gifts with green color and she said that green is neutral and it will suit no matter what gender the baby is.”
“Mrs.Satina was a person who gave me support from time to time,” Fahim Tabesh from Afghanistan said. “She helped me not to feel lonely in the days when everybody was spending time with families. I would say Mrs.Satina’s help and support contributes to my daily success.”