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Thought
Leadership
Corner

By: Minji Kim  

About the Author

“Serving both refugee youth and adult members, I witnessed the two core components that are pivotal for paving refugee families’ pathway to success: self-sufficiency and intercultural relationships.”


 

If you have come to this page looking for an older Thought Leadership piece, please scroll down to the archives.

 

Why I Serve with Refugees

“Sharing is caring!” This simple yet powerful phrase has been my inspiration for serving others. Growing up as a member of an immigrant family, I overcame many difficulties stemming from financial, language and cultural barriers. These life experiences instilled a strong desire to positively impact the lives of underserved communities in America by sharing my knowledge and time.

Since freshman year, my personal interest, background of cultural diversity and passion for empowering vulnerable communities motivated me to serve refugee communities. I volunteered as an afterschool and English at Home tutor through New American Pathways. My experiences in serving families illuminated the critical role of education in empowering marginalized communities and encouraged me to join New AP’s AmeriCorps Project RISE after I graduated from college.

As an afterschool Curriculum Development AmeriCorps member last year, I taught various afterschool curricula ranging from literacy and character development to health lessons, fulfilling academic, social and emotional needs for students. Over time, I truly marveled at the interpersonal relationships I built with students from various cultures and enjoyed learning about in my students’ academic and social progress.

I also had an opportunity to share with my students’ families my personal experiences of difficulty navigating the U.S. medical system. My mother, for instance, still does not speak nor understand English well. Having escorted her to many doctor’s appointments to interpret, I came to understand how daunting the U.S. medical system can be for people from different cultures, backgrounds and languages. My personal and AmeriCorps experiences in serving communities motivated me to commit to another AmeriCorps service year as New AP’s Health Services member to explore and support the entire journey of refugee families in obtaining quality health care. A couple of stories stand out for me:

An Afghani family of nine arrived early this year. One of the children is disabled and needs much medical attention. The responsibilities of taking care of the entire family along with his sick brother were on the oldest son of the family. At first he was very confused about the medical system in America and lacked the confidence to learn how to support his disabled brother. As New AP educated him about accessing the health care system – guiding the process of setting up specialist appointments, taking MARTA to go see a doctor, requesting the Language Line – he acquired the necessary skills that he needs to overcome multiples barriers in medical care.

One of our Syrian refugee families arriving from Turkey had children with rare kidney disorders. Due to lack of information about the disorder, the parents, and even our case managers, did not know how to properly manage the children’s medical condition. With tremendous effort we linked the family to one of the clinical research programs. The facility provided several educational materials about the medical condition, and we helped the family to adjust their lifestyle based on the guidelines that the facility and health provider suggested. Now all the boys are doing well and the parents are able to manage proper home care on their own.

Serving both refugee youth and adult members, I witnessed the two core components that are pivotal for paving refugee families’ pathway to success: self-sufficiency and intercultural relationships. All New AP staff and AmeriCorps members strive to tailor their services to the cultural needs of refugee families. It helps to build trust with our clients as we find culturally and linguistically appropriate health care providers, or when we seek female medical personnel for our female clients when preferred due to religion.

Building interpersonal relationships by serving refugee families widened my worldview and my confidence to engage in meaningful, multi-cultural interactions. Most importantly, reflecting on the lessons and skills I acquired through serving others, friendships I built with my refugee families, and delicious foods and tea from the families, reinforced my belief that serving is not just about caring through sharing, but also about being cared for by those whom I serve.

Minji Kim currently serves as New AP’s Health Services AmeriCorps member through Project RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Success through Education). She assists new Americans in navigating the U.S. healthcare system and in finding doctors who are culturally and linguistically appropriate.

In her free time, Minji loves to draw, and she volunteers at the Clarkston Community Health Center to help uninsured and underinsured patients access medical services. She says that the best part of serving at New American Pathways is learning about the different cultures, foods, traditions and cultural norms of the new Americans we serve – and also learning how to say short phrases in the many different languages that they speak.


Archived Thought Leadership Stories

 

February 2018: Where are the Refugees? by Stephanie Jackson Ali

January 2018: Sharing Riches Through Mentorship by Kelsey Smith

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

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