When I speak in the community as a presenter, I often hear from individuals that they have always been interested in volunteering with refugees and immigrants but were too scared to get involved. They each had different fears that stopped them: some were worried about the language barrier and not being able to communicate; some were nervous about making a cultural faux pas and offending someone; some were concerned about finding common ground and finding interesting activities; some were anxious about being unqualified to be a teacher and help in a classroom. All of these fears stopped them from pursing a passion of theirs. They focused on the “what-ifs” and missed out meeting new people and new experiences.
Maybe you’re feeling this way too. You’ve seen stories on social media and thought, “I should get involved.” But the fearsome “what-ifs” always creep up and stops you. My advice to you and anyone is to turn those frightening “what-ifs” into positive “what-ifs”. Instead of thinking “what if we can’t communicate”; try thinking “what if I make a new friend?” What if I learn a new recipe? What if I discover a hidden talent? What if I help a 72-year-old grandmother of 6 learn to write for the first time? What if I share a holiday with a new refugee family, who are separated from family by thousands of miles? There are so many positives that happen when you move past the fear. Volunteering can change lives, including your own. And you know what? It’s ok to feel nervous and to have those fears. Everyone has those fears. Even refugees have those fears. They worry that they will not understand or be understood. They worry about not knowing about the culture here in Sioux Falls and doing something incorrectly. Underneath it all, we’re all the same. Just don’t let those fears stop you. Because you might end up missing out on meeting a best friend.
If you are interesting in overcoming your fear of volunteering, contact Kristyne Duffy at Kristyne.Duffy@LssSD.org or call 605-731-2009 to find out about volunteer opportunities.
Written by: Kristyne Duffy, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans