As we approach Volunteer Appreciation Week in April, we are sharing inspiring stories of relationships between World Relief Memphis volunteers and our refugee and immigrant community. We’re confident you’ll agree with us, our volunteers are #LoveInAction!
If there was an award for most positively persistent volunteer, it might go to Julia Allen. At 92 years old, she is energetic, socially engaged, urgent about her desire to serve refugees in Memphis, and influentially persisted to see her plan to help them come to fruition.
Since the fall of 2017, Julia has volunteered with World Relief Memphis through organizing and leading a weekly English as a Second Language Class (ESL) for elderly refugees in her city. The class meets Wednesday afternoons and volunteer tutors are all fellow residents of her retirement community, Trezevant Manor. Julia was reminded about refugees in Memphis when someone from World Relief presented at her church. She recalled the joy she’d experienced in years past when she had volunteered with refugees, and she knew she wanted to help in some way again. She invited World Relief to speak at a luncheon at Trezevant Manor to ignite awareness in other residents as well; several expressed similar interest, but were curbed by lack of transportation to volunteer in World Relief’s traditional roles. “A lot of people in Trezevant want to be involved in service but have limited transportation,” Julia told us. But she was determined to help, wondering if somehow the refugees could come to Trezevant. “Karen from World Relief just made me care about the refugees. You know, when we talked, she said, ‘Maybe we can bring them here!’” An idea was born.
Julia and World Relief did find a way to bring refugees to Trezevant, and it has been a big success for both the residents of Trezevant and the refugee clients. Julia shared, “[One of] the really big things we’ve learned through this ESL class for these folks, [be]cause these are older folks...is they stay home. They’re the ones who babysit, they’re the ones who don’t know enough English to get out, so they stay home until their children can take them to the grocery, so they are housebound. So this is an outing, something they’re doing without their family. They’re coming together, and they love that.” World Relief staff can affirm this. Even after the very first class, one of the ESL students, content and smiling, said, “Today was a good day. I’m not alone.” Their new friends benefit from intentional, individual tutoring and the opportunity to practice English, often 2:1 volunteers to clients. “One of our men is 83, and he’s from Baghdad, and he can write a sentence! So he’s moving on big time, and we’re all excited about him! He’s our most enthusiastic…It’s just amazing at 83 to be so eager to learn...They all are so sweet, so appreciative.”
Julia spoke about other benefits she has seen. “I would like to think they are seeing some Americans who are friendly, warm, and helpful. They are excited to get out and see some of the world without somebody to lean on. They have become very friendly with each other. I think, and I hope, they feel that they’re making some progress.”
And the volunteers? “What we get out of it is immeasurable. It’s just a joy to live here and think that you’re doing something that is maybe beneficial to somebody else. You can get very isolated and self-centered here, and even happy, but not be contributing at all. And these people love what they’re doing.”
“Every time I visit the class at Trezevant, I feel it is a sacred space, I can’t really describe it any other way. These two groups of people together give me a glimpse of the Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven,” described Karissa Pletta, World Relief’s resettlement specialist responsible for Elders services.
Of course, the Elders’ ESL class hasn’t been without its challenges. Julia shared that she had to be selective about which residents to invite to volunteer with tutoring because of an experience with someone who vocalized not wanting to welcome refugees. “You know, when you’re only with people who are fearful, it’s really hard not to take on some of their fears,” Julia said. She also told us about her desire for this class to be more relational than transactional: “We don’t want it to be like, ‘We are the ones giving to you poor creatures!’ But instead, we are friends working together. And I think we’ve instilled that atmosphere.”
Their friendship was strengthened on a recent field trip to the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis. Aware of their nationally touring exhibit, African-Print Fashion Now, the volunteer tutors suggested the joint visit for a tour and tea. The museum provided guided visits to historic portions of the museum as well as fabulous docent-led focus on the fabric exhibit. The afternoon fostered continued community building.
When scheduling a time to meet with Julia outside of the ESL class, she said, “Well, you can’t come at 9, that’s my water aerobics class. Be here at 10!” In a few hours together, hardly a single person, resident or worker, passed us by without offering a “Hello, Miss Allen! Good morning, Miss Allen! How are you doing today, Miss Julia?” Clearly, Miss Julia is not your average 92 year old, and when we sat down to talk, she wasted no time getting to the point. She had a story to tell, and she was ready to tell it.
What inspired Miss Julia to go above and beyond in the way that she has for these refugees? In addition to being an active community member (“My children say, ‘Mother, you’re never in your room, we can’t ever get you on the telephone!’”), serving others has been a part of Miss Julia’s life for a long time. “I’ve done a lot of mission trips with my church. I thought I wanted to be a missionary until I met my husband. I’ve just always been drawn to serve in some way. When I was younger, I was very shy. When I was in college, it was during the war, they had a program at church asking volunteers to go into communities where they were short-handed, and they just didn’t have enough people to do things. So I went to Mobile, Alabama, that summer. That was the first time I really just reached out. I think it was a formative time for me because I got over being shy. And then, I just went from there, because I wasn’t happy if I wasn’t doing something that I felt was helping. But you know the receivers are yourself. I, too, was finding out that this means far more to me than it could possibly mean to a refugee. And that’s what brotherhood and service and all those things, that’s what that means.”
Once Miss Julia knew there was something she could do to help refugees integrate more successfully, her empathy moved her to action: “You start thinking about what would I do if I had to leave everything I own, even the members of my family, and leave, run away for safety, and go through the ordeal of the refugee camp, and wait, wait, wait? And then come to a place that is so entirely different from their experience, not knowing anybody, not knowing the language, running into all different ways of doing things. I just thought, what would I do if I had to go to Congo and learn Swahili?”
Miss Julia offered advice for anyone who is hesitant to get out of their comfort zone and come alongside refugees as they rebuild their lives in America: “We’re so aware of refugees in Memphis now in a way that we were not before. There is a desire to do what we can. I just have to believe that you’re gonna find some more people that would like to do this. And you have to have faith. Even [if you think], ‘I’ve never done this, and I don’t know if I can.’ You can! And the only way to find out if you can is if you do it.”
Miss Julia, thank you for inspiring us with your example. You model Love In Action.
By Noah Rinehart, Intern, World Relief Memphis
Photos by Emily J Frazier/Emily Frazier Creative for World Relief Memphis
Intern Stephen Sneed shares the powerful story of Marianna*, part of our #ThankGodForWomen series. We are grateful for her willingness to share, and hope that by telling it, we increase awareness of global hurdles that prevent many women and girls from living out the full potential God has placed within them. (*Names have been changed)
A native Filipino and wife of an Iraqi refugee, Marianna’s journey to Memphis is unique. Sacrificing her beloved childhood island home and dreams instead for steady employment that would financially provide for her parents and brothers, Marianna would work for many years before finding love and starting a family, only to be caught in the crosshairs of an immigration nightmare before finally finding happiness and freedom in the United States.
Originally from a small island and fishing community in the Philippines, Marianna is the fifth of eight children, but the only daughter. She recalls having a strong support system at home and speaks fondly of her parents and brothers as she describes early memories. She recalls her life in the Philippines as good, but very hard because of the lack of resources and job opportunities. Her mother was a street vendor, selling fish and crustaceans in order to buy the family’s food, which mainly consisted of rice. Her father, a farmer, struggled during many seasons of Marianna’s childhood when crops would refuse to grow.
Hard work, frugality, and education were valued by Marianna’s parents. Through careful savings over years of hard labor, they were able to send a couple of her older brothers to college. But by her high school graduation, no money was left, and she had to find a way to support herself and help her family. Opportunities as a domestic worker enticed her to contracts in Manila and eventually Cyprus. She would be responsible for cleaning, cooking, and acting as a full-time nanny for more prominent families.
Working and saving for four years in Manila followed by five years in Cyprus, the days were long yet her work ethic was unwavering. Upon each paycheck, Marianna would send the money she could spare back to her family. When informed of her younger brother’s college aspirations, she pushed aside hopes for her own education and continued to sacrificially send support. Due to her tireless efforts and his diligent studying, he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. Extremely proud of him, Marianna is filled with gratitude when considering her role in helping him.
Away from her family and home for almost a decade, Marianna’s mother encouraged her to return home at the end of her contract. She enjoyed a restful reunion with her family for a couple of months before assessing the continued lack of employment opportunities at home, so she sought work abroad again. Through a connection with a relative in Lebanon, Marianna was granted documents for a domestic worker role similar to her jobs in Cyprus and Manila. She lived and worked with an employer family and transitioned well. However, at the end of her two year term, government regulations had changed: she could not renew her contract, nor had she earned enough money to return home.
A fellow Filipino woman compassionately provide Marianna with work at a Lebanese nail salon. This woman was more than just an employer to her, but a friend who fostered community: someone she considered to be family. During this new-found season of stability, Marianna met a man named Abdul* through the connection of a mutual friend. He was an Iraqi refugee who had fled Saddam Hussein’s army and escaped by foot to Syria. There he was granted refugee status with the UNHCR (United Nations Commissioner for Refugees) and temporarily resettled in Lebanon. What began as a slow friendship, visiting once a week for two years, allowed them to truly get to know one another and lead into their biggest adventure either had ever been a part of: marriage.
With love in her eyes, Marianna joyfully described her wedding day. She smiled as she spoke of her husband and what a good man he was. However, because they were both so far from home on their big day, Marianna and Abdul were the only ones in attendance. Rainy and cold that afternoon, Marianna nevertheless saw it as a blessing and she still dreams of her walk down the aisle in her white dress.
In 2015, two years after she married Abdul, Marianna gave birth to their son, David*. But tears welled up in Marianna’s eyes as she pressed forward in our conversation to describe a series of events full of trial and great difficulty.
During the years Marianna worked at the nail salon, the Lebanese government required differing detailed worker permits and documentation dependent upon the type of immigrant or refugee employment. Marianna’s status and documentation as the wife of a refugee was what she thought she needed in order to continue working in the salon. However, only five months after David was born, men from Lebanon’s Immigration Services arrived at the nail salon and informed her that her permit was not valid. Arrested and taken to jail, Marianna’s infant son was left behind in his crib at the shop.
She recounted her imprisonment through tears. Small and overcrowded, it offered no sunlight or fresh air due to its location under a bridge. Many of her fellow inmates were guilty of serious offenses. Marianna struggled to understand why she had been taken there. She desperately needed to be with her baby and above all, feared the possibility of being deported to the Philippines without her son and husband. She cried and prayed to God to reunite her with her family.
After 15 days, a representative from the UNHCR negotiated her release. Her prayers were answered: she was joyfully reunited with her family and returned to work with the proper paperwork. But soon Marianna learned that her father had fallen ill back in the Philippines. She needed her passport in order to visit him, but it had been confiscated when she was arrested! Marianna was advised that in order to retrieve her passport she would have to sign for it in person. Complying, she nervously returned, but instead of receiving her passport, prison authorities detained her again, this time with no reason or explanation. She suffered in prison another 15 days before the UNHCR could intervene. Tragically, her father passed away while she was detained and she missed his funeral. She felt as though her whole world had been flipped upside down. Relieved to be with her son and husband, she realized Lebanon was no longer the safe haven needed to raise a child and build a future. Abdul and Marianna urgently pursued permanent refugee resettlement.
In January 2017, Marianna, Abdul and David received the joyful news that they were finally granted permanent resettlement to the United States. World Relief Memphis greeted them with love and support for their early months of transition to their new home and new culture. During that same time, we paired them with a Good Neighbor Team, a small group of caring volunteers to walk alongside them in friendship and support. Together with World Relief, their Volunteers, and such a welcoming city, they are happy, healthy, and finally moving forward as a family.
Some milestones to celebrate in their first year in Memphis include Abdul’s job at a Memphis factory. He takes a few minutes of his lunch break to FaceTime with Marianna and David. Marianna passed her driver’s test after practicing daily with a new local Filipino friend. David is happy, healthy, and hungry to learn. English is spoken in their home, and he has learned his ABCs, counting to ten, and is quick to tell you what sound a horse makes. Seeing Marianna with David as he sleepily walks around their apartment in his Sponge Bob pajamas, it is incredibly touching to observe how devoted and caring a mother she is after having served so many other families as a nanny, and sending her money back to the Philippines to help her family survive. Now home with her own son, she provides David with encouragement and the deepest love. American flags and red, white and blue decorations grace their hospitable first American apartment, where tasty recipes are shared and delicious food is served to visitors. Marianna, content after so many years of hardship and fear, beams with joy. Now that she, Abdul, and David are settled in the U.S., they are happy…and they are free.
- by Stephen Sneed
After reading Marianna's story, can you identify the global giants she had to overcome? Some common obstacles for women and girls around the world include gender inequality, access to education, employment opportunities, and harmful belief systems - resulting in social, emotional, physical, and spiritual poverty.
Additionally, 22.5 million people have official refugee status due to persecution and conflict like Abdul. Less than 1% are approved for permanent resettlement in the U.S. and other countries.
Be part of welcoming them - and transforming communities at home and around the world. If you would like to learn more about Good Neighbor Teams or other ways to come alongside our refugee and immigrant community, please visit www.worldreliefmemphis.org/volunteer-opportunities
World Relief Memphis welcomed 390 guests Friday, November 10th, at our 5th annual benefit, A Night to Stand With the Nations. We were greatly encouraged by all who attended and participated as we celebrated hope-filled stories of social, economic and spiritual transformation in Memphis.
Emily Frazier's professional step into humanitarian photography was launched with our new photo exhibit, Images of Inspiration and Integration. (For information on how to host this World Relief exhibit as part of an awareness and action partnership with us, please contact Karen Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The attentive crowd also experienced the first screening of Valley of the Children, our newest documentary short film in partnership with Pigeon Roost Collaborative. It will release more broadly online the week after Thanksgiving. Watch for more information soon!
We appreciate our speakers and the inspirational messages through music and testimonies.
Inspired, encouraged and hopeful for the future, we now join hearts and hands in prayer and in action as we step forward in faith toward our mission and vision in 2018 and beyond.
One late night in January, a crowd gathered at the Memphis airport with Ahmednur, a Somali refugee breathlessly awaiting reunification with his wife and children. Ahmednur had been forcibly displaced from his homeland as a child in 1991, spending the next 24 years in refugee camps in Ethiopia, where he eventually met and married his wife, a fellow Somali refugee. After a lifetime of waiting, Ahmednur received the incredible news of his approval for resettlement in the United States. The joy quickly turned to anxiety, however, because his wife (and therefore their children) had been registered as a separate case long before they met. He would have to go without them. The indefinite separation overwhelmed them, especially considering his wife was pregnant with their fourth child.
Shortly after his 2015 arrival in Memphis, Ahmednur learned from his World Relief case worker that our office also provided immigration legal services. He quickly sought assistance and we were able to file for family reunification, ensuring that his wife and children would eventually be resettled in Memphis. Fast forward to this cold night in January 2017, our airport group celebrated with warm hugs, tender tears, incessant chatter and laughter as we welcomed Ahmednur's family, launching their transition from seeking refuge to refuge found.
Little did we know that only a week later, their home country would be among those banned from entry to the US, a moratorium would be placed on refugees (including reunification), and 60,000 refugee arrivals would be slashed from the resettlement quota, making the line for families like Ahmednur's despairingly long. Even the newest Executive Order sadly lends additional discouragement by restarting the 120 day moratorium.
Memphis Welcomes Refugees
For nearly 40 years World Relief USA has welcomed people fleeing violence and persecution, most of whom are women and children. This is a critical time for refugees and we are witnesses to the greatest displacement of people the world has known.
Since our Memphis office opened in 2012, we have seen with joy hundreds of lives transformed, from refugee families like Ahmednur's reunited, to children attending school for the first time. Your gift will serve refugees who have recently come to the U.S.—helping them adjust to life in Memphis—and preserve our office's services and expertise until the refugee admissions flow increases again.
World Relief Memphis and the refugees we serve need your help
Please consider a Monthly or one-time gift of support to the following funds:
MEMPHIS GENERAL FUND: help us serve existing clients and prepare for future clients as we remove barriers to their self-sufficiency (such as rent, utilities, transportation), navigate cultural orientation, coordinate volunteers, oversee various eligibilities and service enrollments, connect employers with eager employees, educate-equip-empower churches and the community to be more welcoming to the vulnerable. GOAL: $48,000 ($18,000 will be matched by a grant 2:1)
IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES: help us offer a variety of low-cost immigration services to refugees, asylees, and other immigrants. Our office is a recognized organization by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and our services are provided by a BIA Accredited Representative. GOAL: $50,000
Now more than ever your financial support is crucial to stand with the vulnerable in Memphis. Together let's lend hope for refuge found. Give online at bit.ly/SupportWRMemphis or by mailing your gift to World Relief Memphis, 3340 Poplar Ave Suite 222, Memphis, TN 38111.
I was typing an e-mail when he sat down beside me for the first time. He looked about 7 or 8 years old. He had large, dark eyes and a smile that somehow seemed both timid and unbound. Unimpressed that I would waste a computer screen on e-mail, he pulled out a paper spinner and proceeded to play and giggle. As opposed to the adult clients, he seemed unconscious of his limited English. In fact, my new friend was determined to have a conversation with me and the other intern.
We asked him where he was from. Asia. We asked him how long he had been in the United States. Eight months. We asked him who taught him to make the paper spinner—was it his dad? No. His dad had died. He laughed awkwardly, looked down, and continued playing.
Only later did I discover that his father had been assassinated. Men from an opposition political party wanted to destroy the father’s political influence and take his land. In the end, they attempted to kill the boy, too. Fleeing for their lives, he and his mother have sought asylum in the United States. Each time that I see him, I learn something new that complicates the simple image of a boy laughing and playing with a paper spinner.
After ten weeks of interning with World Relief, I have come to appreciate the stories that lie protected just beyond an introductory smile. Syrian refugees invite us into their homes and offer us food and coffee. They smile. They laugh. They talk. All is well. I drive a pair of Congolese brothers to work, and they talk about their favorite American music. They smile. They laugh. They talk. All is well. I take a young Nepali to buy a new car battery. He smiles. He laughs. He talks. All is well. Everyone seems so normal until they offer you a glimpse of their story. Then, you hear that their village had been bombed. Their mother and sisters had been raped. He had spent his entire life in the limbo of a refugee camp. All is not well.
This summer has taught me the discomfort of moving beyond initial smiles and polite conversations. (Such movement must be by invitation only—never by force or presumption.) To do so means relinquishing easy stereotypes and reductive explanations. It requires living in ambiguity. It involves grieving. It promises pain.
By all means, thank God for the smiles and the laughter, but do not misinterpret moments of joy and rest for a world of justice and righteousness. We must draw near to the oppressed and marginalized and to the wounded and scarred. We must crucify our comfort.* Then, we just might move beyond niceties and enter with our neighbors into the grave of grief. Only then can we rise with Christ. Only then will we understand resurrection.
-Mary Ellen Poe, 2016 Summer Intern
* I am speaking here to myself and to others who lead comfortable lives, to those who have the privilege of distance from poverty, abuse, exploitation, and other forms of social harm. This statement should never be used against those who are already oppressed for the purpose of reinforcing unhealthy systems of power. Those who already live in constant grief understand the implications of resurrection.
I will never forget my first day of school. It was the fall of 1988 and I was a scrawny five-year-old refugee kid from Laos. Just two years removed from a refugee camp in Thailand, I walked into Haywood Elementary school in Nashville, Tn. I didn’t understand a word of English and wasn’t sure what to expect. My father, who was working two full-time jobs at the time, managed to get me to school but didn’t know that I needed a backpack and school supplies. He also forgot that I needed to be registered!
Eventually, I was placed in Mrs. Lambert’s class first grade class. I remember feeling scared and confused because I could not understand what anyone said. The best way to describe this experience is a scene I watched many years later from the cartoon show, Peanuts. Charlie Brown and his friends sat in a classroom while an off screen character, presumably the teacher, can be heard saying, “wha wha wha wha.”
To make matters worse, the students didn’t seem interested in talking to me—I guess it didn’t help that my name was Saengthien Mitsamphanh (Thi was actually my nickname). Often, I buried my head on my desk out of frustration and helplessness. Thankfully, Mrs. Lambert was gracious and patient with me. I’ll never forget her warm hug and welcoming smile.
The days at school turned into weeks and months and my comprehension began to improve. Letters turned into words and sentences and soon I was able to communicate with my peers and teachers. My ESL teachers, Mrs. Corley, Mrs. Gonzalez, and Mrs. Mittivong taught me to read and write English. More importantly, they showed me that I mattered and instilled in me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. I distinctly remember when other kids were making fun of me by calling me “chicken.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. Mrs. Corley sat me on her lap and told me, “Saengthien, if anyone ever calls you chicken again, remember that Mrs. Corley LOVES chicken!”
There were others. Mrs. Mitchell, my second-grade teacher asked me one day to meet her in the back of the classroom. Was I in trouble? To my surprise, she showed me a black plastic bag full of boys’ clothing. She explained to me that her sons had outgrown the clothing and she wanted to give them to me. I held on to that bag all the way home.
Classmates turned into friends and failing grades improved until I was finally on the Honor Roll. By the time I headed into middle school I no longer needed ESL and my parents expected a report card full of A’s. Although they didn’t attend every parent-teacher conference, awards ceremony, or sports competition, they always encouraged me to study hard and take advantage of every opportunity to succeed. I eventually finished high school, became the first college graduate in my family, and last year received my doctorate degree.
This fall, many refugee kids will step into Memphis classrooms for the first time. They come with years of hardship and loss behind them but many more years of hope and opportunity ahead. Will their experience be similar to mine? What fears and frustrations will they feel? What challenges lie ahead for them? Who will come alongside them to encourage and equip them to thrive and succeed? My hope is that one day they can share similar stories of kindness, compassion, and acceptance.
There are many ways to invest in the lives of refugee students in Memphis. If you are interested in after-school tutoring contact email@example.com or Refugee Empowerment Program for volunteer opportunities. To help provide gifts cards for school uniforms, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you've been involved with refugees in Memphis, you already know that transportation is one of the greatest challenges facing these new Memphians. The WRM team has seen first hand how successfully refugees overcome this challenge and found these two articles interesting when considering difficulties with transportation.
In an article entitled The 7 biggest challenges facing refugees and immigrants in the US, Christina Nuñez, editor of Global Citizen, states that the lack of access to reliable transportation can affect nearly every aspect of a newly arrived refugee's life. She describes how limited English proficiency and literacy can delay obtaining a driver's license. The article also mentions that once a family does have one car, this still does not always meet all the needs for transportation. For example, children may need to go to school and adults may need to go to work or run errands at the same time.
In the March 2016 issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows further illuminates transportation challenges in How America Is Putting Itself Back Together. Fallows acknowledges the economic contribution of refugees and immigrants to smaller cities and towns while pointing out the difficulties created by inadequate transportation. In the article Fallows notes that unreliable public transportation is a significant challenge faced by refugees, who sometimes solve these problems by walking long distances to and from work, even in inclement weather. Fallows also tells that cultural norms regarding transportation can be challenging.
In Memphis, you can help new refugees overcome their transportation challenges in 3 ways.
- Driver's Education Classes: Donate $500 to pay for a refugee to attend class and receive private driving lessons. Students also have the opportunity to take driver's license testing.
- ESL Volunteers: Volunteer to help a refugee become fluent and literate in English so they can pass the driving exam.
- Used Cars: Donate a working used car or money towards the purchase of a first car.
Acting on any of these steps will help refugees assimilate to life in Memphis and move towards self-sufficiency.
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.