Daniel is a refugee who came from Burma. He graduated from high school, but he did not plan on immediately going to college. After taking time to reflect on what he wanted his future to look like, Daniel decided that he did in fact want to go to college. Like many individuals, Daniel didn’t know what school would be the right option for him. Many of his friends told him about their own experiences, but Daniel became frustrated by the sheer number of options he faced in central Iowa alone. After weighing his options, Daniel took a brave step towards higher education by applying to several community colleges. Once accepted, he realized the application was the easy part. He then had to fill out his FAFSA application, go through both an in-person and virtual orientation, choose his class schedule, and decide whether to live on or off campus. Once again, Daniel needed help. He reached out to his fellow RefugeeRISE host site members who had gone to college. Although there were many times Daniel wanted to give up, his co-members wouldn’t let him. Eventually, the four of them were able to complete all the necessary steps to secure enrollment and financial aid.
Daniel took control of his future by reaching out for help when he needed it, and now has college lined up and ready to go. His co-members are very excited for him, and hope to stay in contact with Daniel after their term ends.
By Rebecca Vasquez
At the Catherine McAuley Center, most of my interactions with refugee clients and recent immigrants have been during my ESL tutoring sessions. The moments I’ll remember the most are hearing the stories told to me by clients and students when they feel comfortable and trust me. The stories they tell provide insight into each of their lives. They’ve told me stories of cultural foods, stories of new hobbies or interests since coming to the U.S., stories of personal goals they want to reach, and stories of their families. These stories aren’t all stories of success, in fact many are about the challenges they face. The challenge of learning English and being understood, the challenge of discrimination, the experience of culture shock and wanting to preserve their culture, the generation gap between them and their children or grandchildren who are growing up here in the United States. These stories are heartwarming and earth shattering, but most of all they are important. Sharing stories helps us to better understand one another, and I’m very glad the clients I’ve worked with feel confident enough to share their stories with me.
By Moriah Morgan
Alice, a Karenni woman, arrived in Iowa with her husband and three children in 2015. She doesn’t speak English and a Karenni interpreter is rarely available. She struggled to understand the Burmese interpreter that was occasionally provided since her Burmese is limited. She and her family have gone to health care providers for years with little to no understanding of treatment. She has been a passive, often powerless patient. That changed in 2017 when she participated in a Karenni flu learning circle, one of seven learning circles held in Des Moines. When EMBARC followed up with Alice, she turned in a report showing she’d shared her knowledge with an additional 31 individuals!
For years, Alice reported getting a flu shot simply because her doctor had told her to. Of late, however, she had been losing faith. The shots were painful and didn’t seem to stop her from getting sick. It was with this doubt in mind that she attended a flu learning circle. Alice quickly learned the truth about how the flu was often mistaken as the common cold and how severe the flu actually can be. She realized how important this information was in terms of changing people’s understanding of sickness.
Alice felt it was her responsibility to teach her community. She knew that a large number of them felt the same way she did before learning the truth. She went door to door asking her neighbors if she could talk to them for a minute about the flu.
The information, Alice thought, was far too important for just a phone call. Speaking in person would allow her to gauge whether they understood what she was saying.
“I am really happy when someone appreciates the information I’ve shared, or they say, ‘oh I didn’t know the importance, but I will go now!’” Some neighbors told her they didn’t have insurance or that they were still asked to pay $20 and couldn’t afford it. Alice made sure to tell them that flu shots would be free with Medicaid, and tried to persuade them that paying $20 would be worth not getting sick if they didn’t have Medicaid.
Months later, Alice still spoke of this experience enthusiastically. She looks forward to participating in future learning circles and gaining more information about different health topics. Alice has requested to even be a host for a future learning circle so that she can promote the continuation of this valuable program.
About the Blog
The service members of RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps have compiled stories of success during their membership. This blog was created with the intent of sharing these valuable stories with the public.