Zuhra, Turkmenistan, University of Memphis

Why am I doing this? How is volunteering valuable to me? Why does it matter?

Such kinds of questions rolled repeatedly through my mind when I was sitting during volunteering orientation.

Volunteering is the perfect way to learn and develop a new skill. Mahatma Gandhi said, ”Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” For me community service is a part of my life. It has strengthened my character in ways that will be professionally and socially beneficial for years to come. I had a huge experience before I arrived to Memphis. I worked at the National Red Crescent Society in Turkmenistan where I taught classes over Art Therapy to disabled kids at rehabilitation centers as well as kids from orphanages. I also helped elderly, lonely people who were living alone. When I first arrived to Memphis, I met amazing people who helped me with cultural adjustments and introduced me to World Relief, the only refugee agency in Memphis. I had never met any refugees before, so that experience was totally new for me and was one of the reasons I chose to complete my community service hours with them. I am so happy to be part of the World Relief family.

One of the greatest things about my volunteering experience with World Relief was meeting and building relationships with refugees from all over the world, whether it was having a dinner with a family from Syria or helping with a doctor’s appointment for a Nepali family. As I spent time with some refugee families, I was able to hear some of their stories, visit their homes, and learn about their cultures. I learned a lot of their stories that touched my heart. I can’t even imagine how hard it was to be separated from their family, culture, friends and environment. My experience with meeting and helping them opened my eyes to many different types of people and the difficult circumstances they are facing.

I believe that everyone deserves a better life. I’ve met refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nepal, etc. All of them are brave, intelligent, good-natured, delightful people who want the same future for themselves and their children as we do.

I assumed before that one person can never make a difference, but now I’ve realized that change starts with you. Yes! You, me, her, and just ordinary people. You have something valuable to contribute and learn from befriending, assisting, and advocating for immigrants and refugees.

It’s really neat to be able to take something and to present it to somebody else who really needs it. It can be just friendship, knowledge and experiences. It makes all the difference in the world.

Originally posted here.