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Volunteers Transform Lives While Enriching Their Own
Volunteers are the unexpected heroes of this organization. In particular, the Refugee Resettlement program thrives off the vitality of our volunteer interns and refugee mentors. They go above and beyond for our clients, going on late night airport pick-ups, driving refugee children to school, accompanying families to medical appointments, and acting as a community guide for recent arrivals. Volunteers help refugees adjust to their new life, and ease the transition to learning and working in America.
With help from our volunteers, Opening Doors resettled 423 refugees this year alone, many of whom came from Afghanistan. The stories of these refugees are usually under-represented in the media, and few people know the sacrifices many made to help U.S. troops in Afghanistan. After learning a great deal about this community, impassioned volunteers find themselves committed to empowering new arrivals.
Florence Amin, intern and unexpected hero, is a member of the Afghan community. Her parents came here as refugees, and her language skills and cultural experience helped her become a great mentor.
However, the volunteer experience can be just as rich, if not more so, for someone without Florence’s background. Florence describes her favorite part of volunteering: the opportunity to work one-on-one with the families. “I feel that every single refugee family that I have worked with has become my own family,” she says. While mentoring refugees initially places volunteers outside of their comfort zone, building this close relationship is rewarding and educational.
Many false impressions of refugees pervade in our community. As a volunteer insider, Florence has encountered one myth firsthand. “Many people think that [refugees] won’t be assets to their communities.” However, refugees contribute in a number of ways; they pay taxes, buy homes, and send their kids to school. The lack of information on refugees creates a disconnection between new arrivals and the rest of the community. The Refugee Mentorship and Internship programs bridge that gap.
Florence also says volunteering is an opportunity to learn who refugees really are. “[With] every refugee family that I have dealt with, I have always learnt something new. Everyday has been a new learning experience.” Refugee mentorship offers a direct connection to refugees that is unmatched elsewhere.
Volunteers get to really know refugees by mentoring them for just a few hours a week. Mentors help refugees open a bank account, use public transportation, access library services, and apply for a California ID or driver’s license. In addition to these four tasks, mentors are encouraged to empower their mentee by connecting them to other community resources.
With 2015 just around the corner, we are gearing up to welcome more refugees. We seek enthusiastic volunteers and interns to make a difference for just one family. You will transform lives while enriching your own. Join us and you, too, can become an unexpected hero.