Have you been considering mentoring a refugee family but are unsure of what it really is? Now is your chance to hear what a mentoring relationship is right from a mentor and family themselves.
Meet Kevin and David. Kevin, his wife Sara, and their three kids, live here in Sioux Falls. Kevin and Sara are no strangers to mentoring a refugee family, as they had previously worked with a single mother from Eritrea for six months. When they chose to mentor another family, we decided to go in a completely different direction. Instead of matching with a family, I matched them with David. David is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent many years in a refugee camp in Kenya before being resettled to Sioux Falls last July. He has no family here in Sioux Falls and I thought Kevin would be a great role model for him. This thought turned out to be correct as their friendship has blossomed and as they say it, “We’re now family. He is my brother and I am his brother.” I recently sat down with Kevin and David to get their perspective on mentoring and beginning this kind of friendship.
Q: What were some of the thoughts you had when you first met?
D: “It was definitely much different in Africa than it is here. Back home you always had family around and here I was alone. Then you brought Kevin and Sara to my apartment and I had family again.”
K: “I felt a strong connection from the very beginning. I knew it would be a lifelong friendship. Of course I had those uncertain thoughts like, ‘Is this going to work’ but faith really helped.”
Q: What sort of things did you do together as mentors?
K: David has become part of our family. We go to church together; he comes over for dinner and campfires. We spent Thanksgiving together and David joined us at our families’ Christmas celebrations. My children love him. He’s so much a part of our family that he calls and asks about the kids and our dog if we haven’t seen each other in a while. We even have plans for the future to practice driving and help him through the process of getting a car too.
D: I work many days and it is difficult to visit each other often. I usually just have Sundays to hang out and go to church. We text each other regularly and stay in contact. I hope to go back and visit Africa later this year and I hope he’ll come with me!
Q: Mentoring can be a scary thing at first—meeting someone from another country, hoping to be friends, language barriers, cultural barriers, etc. Was it difficult for you?
D: Not at all! They are my family.
K: It was so easy. David’s English was really good, even if he wasn’t confident. But our friendship happened right away.
Q: What was your favorite part of mentoring?
D: Everything. I thank them for being my friends and love that we are one family now.
K: The unity. We truly became one family. My parents are his American parents and his parents are my African parents. Our parents even introduce us like that! Back in Africa, his parents call me son and here, my parents call him son too.
Q: What would you say to new mentors and families?
K: I would tell new mentors to just jump in. Don’t think about it because you’ll give yourself every excuse not to do it and not to visit. You’ll need to adopt, learn and listen but these relationships break down walls and racism. They are opening doors. God had a plan for this. It was His divine intervention to bring our families together.
D: I lost my family long time ago but I have a new family now. Everything is easier because of them.
If you are interested in mentoring a refugee family or learning more, please contact Kristyne Walth at Kristyne.Walth@LssSD.org or 605-731-2009.
Written by Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator