Being a Good Neighbor

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“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met yet.” – W. B. Yeats

For nearly a decade, Refugee Care Collective has provided long-term relational support to resettled families rebuilding their lives in a new city. Becoming a mentor is an invitation for strangers to become friends or kin, as members of the community welcome newcomers into their new homes and lives.

For many volunteers, introductory meetings are the first time they interact with individuals from Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Syria, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, and other countries across the world. Consequently, we ask all our mentors to adopt a posture of humility and learning. By holding a perspective of mutual reciprocity, volunteers are able to receive as much as they give.

Reflecting on their experience, one of our mentors shared that it is important to “stay curious and be open in expectation. Don’t make it all about what you are teaching the family, but learn about their culture and background.” Other mentors have shared similar sentiments. Because their advice is so meaningful, we want to share insight from previous volunteers:

  • “Lead with love… it shows through and breaks through the barrier of language. A lot can be said without words.”
  • “Go in there and see the person as a fellow human in need. Try to put yourself in their position and anticipate their needs. Think ‘if I were in their shoes, what would I need’ and provide support from this framework.”
  • “Be there. Be available. You don’t know what they need each day.  Don’t wait for a call. They won’t necessarily chase after you unless you make yourself available.”
  • “Be willing to be uncomfortable as you establish a relationship. Be willing to be patient.”
  • “Though you hope to be friends, don’t demand or expect this. Just show up and be present to the family. They will feel love, warmth, and connection. But this doesn’t happen overnight.”
  • “Some things might feel obvious but are not obvious to someone who has to move here and navigate these things. Knowing that if something seems obvious to you, it’s not. Don’t be afraid to bring up the obvious solution.”
  • “Try to be ok with your limitations and what you can do. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to solve things you don’t know how to solve.”

If you would like the opportunity to support individuals arriving as refugees in the Portland metro area, we invite you to become a Family Mentor or Youth Mentor. Learn about our Mentorship Program here, or fill out our Volunteer Inquiry here for next steps.

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