July 6, 2016

Last fall, Rebecca was looking for an opportunity to volunteer when she heard about Thrive. At the time, she and her husband were considering moving to Europe. She thought, “If we move, it will be under the best possible circumstances: among English-speakers, to a culture that is fairly familiar, with money and jobs, and yet I still feel a little overwhelmed by the idea. How much more overwhelmed must these refugees feel?”

Rebecca knew that she could serve as a cultural ambassador to new American residents, teaching refugees how to “work America.” “I’ve been doing that my whole life,” she said. “I could help with that!”

Rebecca started by working with a family of 6 from Rwanda through Thrive’s Cultural Broker Program. At first, she mainly helped the father of the family learn English. He spoke both Kinyarwanda and Swahili, making English his 3rd language. One day, Rebecca was helping him translate words from English to Swahili through Google translate when she noticed that the words for “good” and “beautiful” were the same. She asked why that was, to which the father replied, “There is good, and there is very good.” Rebecca remarked, “Some things seem to be the same everywhere!”

Rebecca continues to help the same family by arranging their medical appointments and, since no one in the family drives, she helps get them to those appointments. She also helps the family with any issues that arise, helping them find the needed resources.

“I see the importance of the help I can give them all the time,” Rebecca reflects. “How would they get to all these appointments without help? With limited English skills and little understanding of American bureaucracy (even I get impatient with that sometimes!), how would they navigate some of the paperwork they are sent? I feel honored that they trust me to be part of their lives the way they do. It couldn’t have been easy to trust so much in a total stranger.”

When asked about how she felt her experience volunteering with Thrive has impacted her, Rebecca said she’s had the opportunity to make some new African friends! She also mentioned the resilience she’s seen in the people she works with. “The strength of the refugees I’ve met is beyond imagination.”

Our work at Thrive would not be possible if it weren’t for our volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with Thrive, check out our Volunteer page to learn more!

Written by Katie Ulrich

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