“Our clients are energized by the gifts of a volunteer’s time and personal connection – gifts that help restore awareness of their own dignity and worth, which persecution and trauma tried to take away from them.”
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The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but reveal to him his own. – Benjamin Disraeli
Refugee – fear, persecution, flight, war-torn, trauma
Refugee – courage, strength, resilience, resourcefulness, new opportunities
Headlines might say the former but I insist on the latter.
Headlines also might say help the poor, disadvantaged refugees; give them all the things they lack; teach them our ways. I say that while the spirit of generous giving is always needed (possibly now more than ever), we should focus just as much on encouraging and empowering refugees to delve into the wealth of strengths, talents, ideas, experiences and resources within them.
I’ve been on both sides of the mentoring equation and know firsthand how transformational such a connection can be. Were it not for key people who looked at a starry-eyed but insecure college grad and saw a spirit of adventure and a desire to learn life and serve abroad, I never would have had the courage to move overseas – away from my family and friends and all that was familiar. Now I get to take what I have received and pass it on to others.
I think of one of our afterschool students who, when I first met her, was unhappy, withdrawn and often self-deprecating. Gradually, as our team built rapport and trust with her and as we reminded her again and again of the wonderful qualities she possessed, a light began to dawn. When we talked with students about what they wanted to be and do when they grew up, this little girl would shrug and say “I dunno.” I told her once that I would like it if, when she grew up, she would be herself. She smiled and agreed that was what she wanted to be. When she came back next school year, I rejoiced to see her – a happy, energetic child with a newfound enthusiasm and confidence.
I have seen, over and over, that same spirit of joy in the connections our volunteer mentors and clients make, whether when teaching English through our English at Home program, talking goals and career plans in Mentors for Vocational Pathways, or applying for college and dreaming big in Young Women’s Leadership.
Our mentors insist that they are the ones who benefit from these relationships, as they celebrate the amazing milestones our clients achieve on their pathways to success. Our clients are energized by the gifts of a volunteer’s time and personal connection – gifts that help restore awareness of their own dignity and worth, which persecution and trauma tried to take away from them.
I see this process not as a volunteer making a client into someone better or giving them what they lack, but by calling on the strengths our clients carry within them, helping them to rise up and succeed.
This is what mentorship means, and this is what happens every day in our Adult Education programs. Care to join us?
Kelsey Smith is New American Pathways’ Adult Education Senior Coordinator. She joined the team in 2014 as ESL Instructor and Afterschool Class Instructor and enjoys discovering tea shops and bookstores in Atlanta with her lovely mother.
Find out more about mentoring in our Adult Education programs by attending a Volunteer Orientation. Reach out to Akheia Bowie at email@example.com.
December 2017: Thoughts on Doing Good This Season by Andrew Leba
October/November 2017: Thoughts on Thankfulness by Paedia Mixon
September 2017: Undocumented and Unafraid: My Parents, My Heroes by Raymond Partolan
August 2017: Building PathDriver: My Path to Drive an Impact by Robin Deutsch Edwards
July 2017: Civic Engagement Regardless of Citizenship by Maria del Rosario Palacios
June 2017: Celebrating World Refugee Day by Rabbi Peter S. Berg
May 2017: Love>Fear: And It’s Good For Business by Bonnie Kallenberg
April 2017:Talking with Babies Makes Their Brains Smarter by Nitza Vega-Lahr, Ph.D.
March 2017: It’s All About Student Support by Terry Segovis
February 2017: Clarkston, Georgia: An Ever-Changing Town by Awet Eyasu
January 2017: Reclaiming Georgia’s Legacy of Love by Paedia Mixon
December 2016: Reflections on Welcoming Communities Trip to Germany by Alicia Phillip
November 2016: Thanksgiving in America by Bishop Robert Wright
October 2016: Voting: The Real American Dream by Elizabeth Poythress
August/September 2016: From the Road: das Willkommen by Paedia Mixon
July 2016: My Life In AmeriCorps by Lauren Mertens
June 2016: Reflecting On World Refugee Day
May 2016: A Gift for my Parents by Bee Nguyen
April 2016: The Ripple Effect by Breauna Hagen
March 2016: Lessons I’ve Learned Tutoring a Refugee by Ashley Hager
February 2016: For the Love of Humanity by Safia Jama
January 2016: 4D Service Learning at The Galloway School by Scotti Belfi
November and December 2015: A Case for Syrian Resettlement by Paedia Mixon
October 2015: Creating a Welcoming Atlanta Interview with Luisa Cardona
September 2015: Third-Annual Red, White and NEW Event Exceeds Fundraising and Advocacy Goals by Kelley Lugo
August 2015: Patti Garrett – August 2015 Food for Thought by Patti Garrett
July 2015: Engaging International Families in Parent Groups by Patti Ghezzi
June 2015: Reflecting on the Fourth of July by Kevin Abel
May 2015: Looking Back on Iraq by Whitney Kweskin
April 2015: All Hail Hall by Spencer Hall
March 2015: Honoring our Volunteers by Adriana Varela
February 2015: Celebrating New Americans by Charles Barnwell and Bob Glick
January 2015: What Refugees Leave Behind by Wendy Cheeks
December 2014: Welcoming Week in Atlanta by Emily Pelton
ARTICLES | LINKS:
Refugee entrepreneurs are expanding prosperity for all Atlantans by opening new businesses that add to the tax base, employ local residents, and bring fresh ideas and products to our community.
ARTICLES | LINKS:
“Doing Business Like a Refugee” – For countries that embrace refugee business, what follows is often a boon to the economy, and an outlet for the refugees themselves. Via NPR Planet Money
“Where are refugees to the US coming from?” : via Washington Post
“U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Migrant Children” – This summer, religious leaders across the United States lead the cause of welcoming unaccompanied migrant children to their communities. via New York Times Link
“The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis” – The ongoing issues facing Central American countries, forcing thousands of unaccompanied children are complicated. Here is one view of the crisis. via New York Times Link
What Do You Think?