How do family mentors welcome new neighbors?

Kim Benjamin, former Americorps VISTA in the Fort Worth office, shares how she helped welcome a family as a Mentor.

I decided to become a mentor with Refugee Services of Texas soon after starting my Americorps VISTA service term in Marketing at the Fort Worth site. I knew that even with all the research in the world, I could never be as personally invested in the mission of RST without firsthand experience with clients. Little did I know how I would come to love and respect the members of a family who have lived lives so very different than my own. 

Being new to the mentoring experience, I was a bit nervous the first time that I met with the family without an interpreter. My nerves quickly dissipated because of the family’s welcoming demeanor. They seemed eager to learn about Texas in addition to improving upon what little English they knew.

There have been many highlights to my experience in working with this family. The biggest event for the family was the marriage of their eldest daughter. I was honored that, having only known them for a few months, they would include me in their celebration. I spent most of the day prior to the wedding receiving henna tattoos with the women of the family. The celebration itself was a huge community event with food, dancing, and entertainment provided by a singer famous in their culture. 

“My family”, as I often refer to them, had only a few members with limited English ability when they arrived in Texas. Most of my interactions with the family members involved someone interpreting for another, or me using Google Translate to assist us in understanding each other. About five or six months after their arrival I was conversing with three of the children. Our conversation lasted for at least ten minutes. I am delighted to say there was no interpretation needed for the entire exchange!  They all understood and contributed to the discussion in English!  I was so proud! 

All in all, I can say there has been no greater joy than sitting with the children while they do their homework or helping their amazing mother with her English. I feel lucky to be greeted with smiles and hugs every time I visit them and I couldn’t imagine my life without their friendship. I know this relationship has helped me to bring more passion and care into my work! I would have never thought that through welcoming this family to their new community, they also welcomed me into theirs.

Family Mentors donate their time to welcome a family into their new community. By providing knowledge about American culture, helping to further improve English skills, and simply being a friend, mentors are an invaluable link for refugees families to life in Texas. By donating on North Texas Giving Day, you can help us grow and improve programs like Family Mentors.

Visit our profile at https://northtexasgivingday.org/npo/refugee-services-of-texas to learn more about how you can help!