In early May, 11 students from Concordia University traveled from Portland, Oregon to serve with Lutheran Services of Georgia! Together, the students visited refugee families, assisted with cultural orientation classes, and helped set up an apartment for newly arrived refugees. After their week of service, some of the students shared their reflections on their time with LSG. Here’s what they had to say:
Mari: “Working with these families and children was an eye-opening experience. Despite the hardships these families have faced, and the difficulties they face in the future in adjusting to life in America, they were motivated and thankful for the opportunity to start a new life here. I saw first-hand the difficulties of not knowing a major language, especially when trying to get a job and support one’s family. These experiences have affirmed my interest in serving others and learning more about different groups of people.”
Karissa: “Practicing English with the refugees in their ESL class was great. There was one large realization, though. At Concordia, I live with ESL students, so I get to watch them learn English on a daily basis. We laugh through our struggles, and it’s fine because they are learning in a fun way by choice. These people in Atlanta, however, are learning English because they have to. They are learning because they were forced out of their homes to this foreign place with a new language. It’s not a format in which they can laugh through their struggles, and that is sad to me. This really made me think about how difficult it would be to learn a new language and a completely new life all at once.”
Sarah: “Initially, I saw this Alternative Break Trip as a chance to experience the South while doing volunteer work. What I did not realize is that this trip would allow me to gain valuable life knowledge. At the Clarkston Community Center, I was able to work with children of refugees. I have a huge place in my heart for children. Helping with homework and playing with these young children really helped me realize that as a teacher I cannot control what students will walk into my classroom. The culture, language, and traditions are much different than the American norm. As a teacher, I need to provide an accepting environment for these children. Not only that, but it will be my responsibility to exhibit a tolerance for equality in the classroom.”
Tito: “While in Atlanta, I had an opportunity to understand the lives of several refugee families. Getting to know everything they need to go through to transition into a new life was overwhelming. Much of the work could be overwhelming for the volunteers. It must be even more overwhelming for a refugee that is moving to the United States permanently and has not visited before. Many of these families have been driven from their homes forcefully and are unable to return. It is a tragic experience for these families. Oftentimes they arrive not knowing anyone. This transition is difficult.”
D’Anne: “I learned that I need to be more open to different possibilities and experiences no matter where I am. We are all human. Some people have more experiences and difficulties than others, but that is what allows us to have different stories. Through this experience, I have decided to minor in Spanish so that I can better educate myself and have meaningful conversations with more people than just English-speaking people. This trip allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and talk to unfamiliar people and figure out ways to interact with them. I believe this experience has opened me up and allowed me to be the person I am supposed to be.”
LSG thanks the Concordia students for their passion, enthusiasm, and hard work during their week of service. LSG is also excited that Tito Vasquez, quoted above, is continuing to serve refugees this summer as an intern with LSG’s Refugee and Immigration Services. Click here for more photos from Concordia’s time with LSG.