Volunteer of the Month: John Bottini

While cultures, ethnicities, and religions may vary, one thing is true for people around the world – we all love our children. This basic truth helped our April Volunteer of the Month, John Bottini, to make greater, lasting connections with two new arrivals, and to help their family grow larger, and stronger, in their new community.

John, environmental counsel at Georgia Pacific, is not new to the refugee community. A founding board member of New American Pathways, John first came to service in 2011 through working with the board of Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), one of the organizations that merged to become New AP in 2014.

Since then, John has worked tirelessly to champion the cause of refugees in Georgia – from supporting fundraising efforts to writing editorials for local papers. But in 2016, he decided to do more direct work with new arrivals, and joined as a mentor in the English at Home program, where welcoming community members help newly arrived refugees improve their English skills in their own homes.

John couldn’t have found a better match if he tried. His new friends, recent arrivals from Myanmar, were the young parents of two small sons – and were expecting a third child soon.

The husband spoke English well, but was sometimes hesitant to communicate to his fullest ability. The wife did not know much English either as she did not get to attend English classes. The couple were nervous about the process of giving birth in a totally unfamiliar language, culture, and health care system.

That’s where John stepped in. He planned and taught English lessons on the necessary vocabulary of medical terms and childbirth, which the family said helped them feel much more prepared for their experience.

“The thing that was so rewarding for me is to have a family that is welcoming their third boy, and I’m a father of three boys, so here’s a family going through the same life experiences that I recently went through…so it seemed logical to me to be sure they were equipped with a working understanding of key terms they’d be facing in that setting.”

Since the family gave birth at the same hospital John’s wife did, he also was able to offer friendly advice on issues like where to park and the best food in the cafeteria.

Not only did they build language skills, but found a new friend, and supporter, in John. But John doesn’t see this being a case of success just because the family learned some new words – it’s also because of the lasting connections the two families made and the potential stresses he helped his friends avoid.

“Anybody gets excited when friends go through childbirth, and you want to do what you can to make it smooth for them, and I was especially excited in this case knowing where they came from…to make the process less challenging,” John said of the experience.

After the family welcomed their third son, and had a brief recovery and adjustment period, they resumed their studies with John – baby in tow. John says they’ve since had a couple of chances to bring both families – six boys in all – together and to share the love, and friendship, further.

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