Volunteers

Intercultural, mutual friendships are the backbone of Neighbor to Neighbor.
It is our mission to connect newcomer immigrants with local community members. When those relationships have a balanced give-and-take, are intentional and agenda-free, and each member comes alongside the other, everyone thrives. 

N2N Volunteers Speak

Becoming a “neighbor” to an immigrant in my community has been so enriching and eye-opening! I’ve been meeting a few times a month with a young woman who is seeking asylum in the United States, and I have been so blessed to get to know her. So far our meetings have been one-on-one, but I look forward to introducing her to my family soon. She is smart, brave, and kind, even as she’s going through some difficult circumstances.

As I’ve been getting to know her, one thing that has surprised me is the realization of how little I know about some of the different places in our world. Prior to meeting my friend, I knew of her country of origin in name alone. After getting to know her and hearing more about her journey here, I’ve learned about the strife and violence happening where she came from and about the danger she and her family faced​—a​nd even now continue to face. It shocked me to learn about the situation in her home country because I haven’t seen any news about it here. It’s made me question how much I know about the world, and it’s made me realize how vital asylum is for so many who are vulnerable in their home countries.

I’m excited to continue learning from and growing closer to my neighbor as we get to know each other better. I also hope to be a good friend and neighbor as she goes through the asylum process and continues to explore life in the United States. I’m thankful for the opportunity Neighbor to Neighbor has provided me to enter into such a meaningful friendship!

I was so happy to find Neighbor to Neighbor after searching for ways I could get involved with immigration and new arrivals. We are fortunate to have this resource in our community—both for us and for those arriving. I had no experience with or previous exposure to newly arriving immigrants. But as I watched the refugee crisis unfold, I could only think what it must be like to arrive in a new place where everything is unfamiliar with no family or friends to lean on and to learn a new language.

Through N2N, I was introduced to Mohammad, his wife, and their five (now six) children. My husband and I provided some transportation, and then I began Saturday morning language lessons (something I had never done before) and helped with whatever came up.

It is no small task to obtain a driver’s license in our state, and Mohammad worked very hard to do so, but it took many, many months. In the meantime, he and his family were dependent on others to get them to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor’s appointments, school when the bus didn’t come, outings, and so on.

Mohammad could speak some English, but the rest of the family was just learning. We shared photos of loved ones, ate meals together, visited playgrounds, and became partners in navigating their new community. Slowly, we became more familiar with each other, learning more about each other’s families and lives and sharing the daily frustrations, challenges, jokes, and tears. What a joy it has been.

I’ve learned that time spent with someone can be just that: time together. My need to have a task list, a plan, a time frame seems so much less important than just being together. Sharing meals is precious time. And it honors your guests to give them the best that you can. Taking the time to greet one another and inquire how you are should never be hurried over. A faith that is different from your own can teach you beautiful things and deepen your own faith. Traditions from other cultures can teach us how different we are and, at the same time, how we are very much the same.

Yes, I came to be a volunteer, but now, a year later, I have friends—friends who care about me as much as I care about them. Watching them progress and flourish is such a gift and a reminder of what we can accomplish when we neighbor with one another.

A group of friends and I have been working with a family of ten. Initially, I worked with the mother and introduced English phrases that we thought would be helpful. When it became clear how important her family was to her, we pivoted to working on words relating to family. She learned those and looked up at us, “Good?” when she correctly responded or recited, ‘Holding the baby,’ or, ‘The baby is crying.’

The difficulty in moving to such a foreign country is [an] impression I cannot shake. Language, school, shopping, transportation, doctors, all present obstacles. When it seems as though we are stuck with a problem, oftentimes there is some person or some organization, especially Neighbor to Neighbor, ready with a solution. There are, however, times when our systems do not work for them. With the challenge we face communicating with them, I can only think of their difficulty in understanding us and our ways.

Dignity is a lasting impression I appreciate, visit after visit. When the father is home, he carries our book bags into and out of his house. We are greeted not only with ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ but with hot tea and often some other food. Once as a thank you, the mother painted our hands in graceful designs with henna. She sews the girls’ dresses, sitting on the floor in front of her sewing machine. They are proud to dress as they did in Afghanistan. They have brought with them a world of experiences and memories and knowledge and struggle.  

They are a delightful family. It is my hope that each one of them can achieve a better, happy, productive life here. So far they are, together, facing their challenges. I marvel at their courage.

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