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Life-on-Life: Why Being a Friendship Partner Matters

Please meet Rick Hayden, who volunteers with World Relief Chicagoland as a Friendship Partner. Friendship Partners make a 6-month commitment to provide practical and relational assistance to newly arrived immigrants or refugees. The volunteer visits approximately once a week to help practice language, understand culture, navigate services, and most importantly, to be a friend. Here is our Q&A with Rick.

Rick, what made you want to volunteer with World Relief Chicagoland?

Well, there are a lot of things that one can volunteer with, especially when you are retired like me. I used to volunteer with food pantries stocking shelves, which is good, but I wanted to have more life-on-life experience. When I heard about World Relief and how you could volunteer and help people directly, I decided to try it out.

How has your faith played a role in why you volunteer?

There are so many injustices in the world, but for some reason the issues around immigration really spoke to me. I’ve been frustrated and was frustrated for a while. Just when I was looking to be able to do something beyond go to a protest, someone from World Relief was speaking at my church, Christ Church of Oak Brook, and I knew this is where Jesus was. I wanted to be there.

What have been some of the challenges you have seen as a volunteer?

I work with a few guys that all live together who came here from the DR of Congo. Every day seems to have a new challenge. It could be language or having to get some sort of documentation. It might be transportation to appointments, or the change in climate. Just recently, we had that emergency broadcast that went to everyone’s phone. Thankfully, one of the guys reached out to me right away and asked what this was. We were able to communicate enough that they were safe, and no harm was coming – but it’s things like that. You just don’t know what challenges they are going to face each day. I’m just glad that they trusted me enough to call!

What would you tell someone that is thinking about becoming a volunteer?

If you are like me, you have a lot of privilege. I’m a white male from the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve known nothing but privilege. You can write a check, and should, but going that extra step and giving back time, investing in their lives, helping them know the ins and outs of how to live in the U.S., just being a friend here – this is important. So, if you have the time, give it. It’s worth it.

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