During the holiday season, Refugee Services of Texas aims to highlight and share the stories of some of our amazing volunteers and clients. Merinda is one of our bright Bright Blessings this year, and we are proud to be one of her's too!
You can give bright blessings by donating to RST this holiday season through our donation page on the RST website. Also, remember to mark your calendars for Giving Tuesday on November 29th! Finally, you can help RST by purchasing holiday gifts via Amazon Smile.
Merinda’s journey of volunteering with Refugee Services of Texas started, as have many others, with images on the news. “I was first drawn to helping by refugees because I was heartbroken by stories and photos of Syrian refugees in the media,” she says. Her faith also compelled her: Merinda is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and around the same time that she developed a desire to help refugees, the LDS Church issued a call-to-action to help those in need.
One Google search and more than a year of service later, Merinda continues to volunteer as part of a Welcome Team. This means she helps with everything from setting up apartments before refugee families arrive to helping the family take necessary steps to orient to American life. Merinda is particularly fond of helping with school enrollments: “My favorite work as a volunteer has been helping children enroll in school. They are the children of our future here in America, and I love helping them accept that gift of free education for all.”
Merinda admits that volunteering isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding. “Volunteering with RST is simple yet difficult, heart-wrenching yet rewarding, and above all mind-expanding and heart-warming.” Whatever the challenges may be, however, they are always an opportunity for personal growth: “I have learned that I have more prejudices and ignorance than I expected. Having the opportunity to interact with individuals and families who are refugees from many different countries has opened my mind to experiences I could never imagine, while still helping me see that across humanity we have so much in common.”
It is the challenges as well as the rewards that make volunteering truly worthwhile for Merinda. “Helping other people brings me so much joy, and opens my mind to experiences and people I would have never otherwise known,” she says. As she gathers with family to celebrate this holiday season, Merinda has much to be thankful for, much of which is tied to her volunteer experience: “peace, family, smiles, clean water, translators, generous people, education, and hope.” And she strongly advocates for others to get involved too: “Bring your kids, find a way to serve that works for you, and take the time to make it happen. It will change your life.”