UNIV 190-003: Understanding Service and Social Justice: The Refugee Experience in America
Over the last semester, I have worked with a refugee family as a service learning experience. The family consists of three generations, thirteen people in total. A couple of weeks ago, they moved to America from the Ivory Coast. Since the family is so new to America, we were able to see the full transition of a refugee family. Seeing them on the first week, they had absolutely nothing, but yet were still excited. The family was thrilled to be alive and to have the opportunity to live in America. Now, the family is beginning to transition into American culture. Although they still have much room to grow, they are beginning to become familiar with the area, the geography, the culture, the language, and the new community. We have taken them on outings to explore the area and become familiar with common necessities such as the laundry mat and the grocery store. Additionally, we have brought educational games and books in order to teach them about money and english. Overall, I definitely feel like we have made a difference in helping the family embrace a new culture. Every one of them has a smile on their face and are making the best of their move. They are all very eager to learn and assimilate into American culture. I am honored that they trust me and have allowed me to help them with their transition into society.
Through this service and social justice project, I have understood the importance of volunteering. Not only is it beneficial for the recipient, but it greatly impacts the life of the volunteer. Although most of my experience has been positive, having this be my first social justice project, I have found room in which I can improve. For instance, I am a very black and white person. I either give no energy into a project, or I fully devote myself. This is where my refugee project has interfered with my previous mind set. I deeply care about the refugee experience to not be involved at all. However, with work, school, and extra-curricular activities, I simply do not have the time to fully dedicate myself to refugees. Therefore, I must improve in terms of finding a happy medium and still being able to participate. Although I do not have time do fully devote myself, I can make time to continue to visit my family at least once a month. I have developed a strong relation with the family, and the kids in particular. I am very encouraged to continue working with them and help them develop. Every member of the family has so much potential in terms of education and success. I would love to be a part of their growth, and at the least, be along for the ride so I can see the transformation. Before entering this course, I did not know what a refugee was, let alone the extent to which they suffer. Not that I have been exposed to this crisis, I plan in utilizing my education to spread awareness and continue to help refugees. Not only do I want to help the family that I am currently working with, but I want to help all refugees by publicizing the corruption. The more people know, the more they are willing to help. I am very grateful for my experience in working with refugees and am excited to see how this experience will continue to affect my life.