Editors note: This week, each department is following the theme of “A Day In The Life Of…”. In order to help people better understand what we do, we want to share a bit of what each day looks like for us. Today is your opportunity to learn a little more about the Center for New Americans. Please check back each day to find out about a new department within the LSS family.
Today you get to learn more about the Center for New Americans. No day is ever the same for us; which is one reason I love working here! As Volunteer Coordinator I get the privilege of working with both our refugee clients and the wider Sioux Falls community. While there are countless things I do each day, there are really 3 main aspects to being a volunteer coordinator here.
The first aspect is obvious. I help coordinate volunteers! So that means I get to be the introduction to refugees and, sometimes, LSS in general. Those interested in volunteering get in contact with me and I help them through the process of applying. I discuss with them the different types of volunteer opportunities, what their interests are and when they are available. I host an orientation session that they attend that helps launch them to the world of refugees and resettlement. In this session we cover topics like who are refugees, how do they become refugees, what leads them to South Dakota, what are some services LSS provides for refugees, how to interact with other cultures, and how to talk to someone with lower English proficiency. After this, if a volunteer has chosen to become a mentor, I match them up with a refugee family. The family, mentor and myself all meet and I help with introductions and making plans for another visit. I then check in with them regularly to see how the relationship is going. I enjoy getting to know the families and mentors and watch as they adjust to living here.
Another part of being a volunteer coordinator is helping to collect and organize any Welcome Box donations. Refugees often come with just some clothes to begin their new life in the US. We help provide items (like dishes, bedding, furniture, diapers, etc.) to help them start over. I work with individuals, groups, churches and school who are interested in donating items to help. Once they arrive I help get them ready to go to a client’s home. Sometimes I am able to help set up an apartment and can bring them right there. It is gratifying to know that a family will get off that plane and see their new home with items donated by people who care.
Another fun part of my work is going out into the community to talk about refugees. Different schools, churches, colleges, businesses, groups and individuals will contact us wanting to know more about refugees and LSS. I get to go out and teach them about refugee resettlement. I really enjoy this aspect—I know you’re shocked that I actually like getting up in front of people to give presentations.—but yes, even though normally I’m quite shy, I LOVE this part!! I get to share my passion of welcoming refugees as well as meet tons of people in the Sioux Falls area. Who couldn’t love that!
I have been very blessed working here at LSS. I’ve met amazing individuals and have gotten to witness amazing moments. I can’t wait to see what things I will see in the future. If you are interested in getting involved too, you know where to find me!
Written by Kristyne Walth