Community members and volunteers are the heart of our work. From furnishing apartments to teaching English, they introduce newcomers to the American way of life. The welcome communities provide is crucial to how quickly refugees can rebuild their lives. Today, I’d like to share a guest post featuring one of these open and dedicated volunteers, Dana Wilson, from Dallas, Texas.
This guest post is written by LIRS Program Coordinator, Laura Griffin:
Some people are natural hosts. Dana Wilson, a star volunteer at Refugee Service of Texas (RST), an LIRS partner in Dallas, TX, is one of those people. I met with her to discuss her volunteer work while I was traveling in Texas recently, and she was eager not only to talk about her compassion for refugees, but also to orient me to the city.
Dana takes the same warmhearted approach to hospitality when welcoming refugees. Over the last 10 years she’s volunteered with new Americans in a range of capacities. She now works with Refugee Services of Texas to set up homes for newly arriving refugees.
When refugees first step off the plane in the United States, volunteers and partner staff at agencies like RST meet them at the airport and take them to a new apartment that has already been set up with furniture and other necessities. Volunteers like Dana play a key role in ensuring a smooth arrival for refugees by furnishing the apartment.
Dana starts this task with an empty apartment and a list of items to collect. RST moves the heavier furniture in and provides Dana with a gift card to a local department store to buy the remaining essentials. She furnishes the apartment and then adds finishing touches like making the beds and stocking the fridge to welcome the arriving family.
‘It’s sweet to think about what it’s like for the refugees when the first walk into their new apartment,’ shares Dana. Refugees arrive at the airport exhausted and anxious about their new lives in America. During those first overwhelming 24 hours, in which everything is brand new, Dana hopes refugee families will take comfort in the small touches that shows her care and concern.
‘I like the idea that my country can be a refuge,’ Dana told me. ‘Nobody dreams of raising their children in a war zone…I’m glad that we can welcome those refugees to the United States.’
Volunteers are an essential part of a that welcome.
If you would like to grow your volunteer program, or are a volunteer manager, check out LIRS’s Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit, which has a host of helpful resources.