During the holiday season, Refugee Services of Texas aims to highlight and share the stories of some of our amazing volunteers and clients. Derek Robinson, a volunteer at Refugee Services of Texas in Austin, shares what motivates him to help refugees in his community.
You can spread Bright Blessings this holiday season by selecting Refugee Services of Texas on Amazon Smile or by donating on our website on Giving Tuesday, November 29th.
Derek began volunteering with RST Austin over a year ago in response to the “anger and misunderstanding" he saw in response to increasing numbers of people from Central and South America - most of whom were unaccompanied children - arriving at the Texas border in 2014. “I decided then that I did not want that to be the first thing they saw, and the only way to ensure that it wasn’t was for me to get involved and do something about it,” Derek writes. After searching online for ways to help, he found RST.
Today, Derek and his two teenage children transport furniture and other large donations in his pickup truck, one of the few available among RST Austin’s volunteers. He enjoys making these deliveries, especially to families with young children: “It's always fun to see how anxious the children are to help. On two occasions I can recall having the smallest member of the family try to pick up some heavy or awkwardly large items, much to everyone else's amusement.” Even after someone went to move the item, on both occasions the smallest child would insist on holding on with one hand, helping as best they could.
Refugee children are not the only ones Derek seeks to impact through his work with RST. He hopes that his own children will benefit from the experience as well. “Volunteering is my chance to see with my own eyes what's happening in other people's worlds, all while giving me a chance to pay-forward some of the help I was given when I was in need,” he says. “It is also an opportunity for me to share that lesson with my children, and show them that, no matter our living conditions or situations, we are all in this together.”
Togetherness and unity are important to Derek. In fact, it’s his favorite part of the holiday season. “People put aside their differences for a short period of time and instead focus on what makes us similar,” he says. And volunteering is a great way to foster those feelings of unity all year. “It doesn't take much to show a stranger you care about them,” Derek says, “but it means the world to them, and you can see the impact immediately.” And by volunteering, you, too, will feel this impact, according to Derek: “It has been a wonderful, fulfilling experience, that, in spite of the fear and hatred we see on our social media and news streams, has filled me with hope for the future.”
This Holiday Season you can show refugees that you welcome them by sharing their story and supporting our essential services. Visit our website at www.rstx.org to learn more about how you can help and don't forget to donate this Giving Tuesday.