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The Cycle of Service: Art Gives Back to His New Community

Art believes community can make any place feel like home. He had friends in Korea and lived abroad in Russia for a short time. In his home country of Uzbekistan, it was the community that mattered to Art. His mother and father. His sister. The people.

In 2017, the family received a message from Art’s uncle who had immigrated to America roughly 18 years prior. He had applied for family reunification. This is a legal process in which a former refugee member can request for his/her family members to join them in their new country.

The family decided to reunite, and five years later, Art arrived in Spokane. “It was a really different country. It was a different culture; it was different habits. It was a different view of the world. And I saw that it will be really…a struggle.”

Art and his family didn’t have an apartment, much less furniture to fill the rooms. They didn’t even know where to get started. Art and his family had no social connections. In Uzbekistan, philanthropy was not common. It was expected that others would focus on themselves and their own needs.

However, in Spokane, the family was greeted at the airport by World Relief staff and volunteers. Everything they needed to get their feet on the ground was supplied through community support and donations. With this assurance, the newly arrived immigrants dove straight into learning about the finance system, navigating Spokane and adapting to life in the U.S.

“He has a heart to serve.”

Robby Cannon, Healthcare Coordinator

Giovanni, the Resettlement Specialist who assisted Art, was impressed by the family’s determination. “They were go-getters. They have big aspirations to achieve things.”

The family found jobs through Economic Empowerment and were enrolled in English classes at Spokane Community College. It was at SCC that Art got his CNA license which enabled him to assist the elderly and disabled.

Resolved to work in a field that would be beneficial for his family and future children, Art decided to work towards an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. With the need for volunteer hours, Art knew where he wanted to serve: World Relief.

“I came here to help the people who helped me before. There are a lot of immigrants who need help, and I can help new generation immigrants. And I hope that new generation immigrants will help and the future will, and the future…”

A heart to serve

Art found working as a volunteer interesting and has grown an appreciation for the work that goes into refugee resettlement. “It is not an easy job for them.”

On Tuesdays, Art works alongside the Economic Empowerment department sorting documents and shopping for and assembling hygiene packs. He remembers how essential hygiene items were to him and his family when they first arrived.

“The hygiene pack really helped us because we really needed it. It’s basic things that we use every day…for example, hand wash, soap, detergent.”

Thursdays are always different. As an essential member of the Resettlement team, Art works closely with the Initial Healthcare Coordinator, Robby Cannon. Ranging from driving refugees to their first medical appointments to office tasks, Art keeps himself busy.

“Art’s phenomenal. That guy’s awesome,” said Robby. “He kicks in wherever he’s needed. We are blessed to have him.”

When the opportunity arises, Art interprets Russian, English, Korean and Uzbek for Job Readiness Workshop. It is there that he encounters other immigrants from Uzbekistan. “I get a lot of nostalgia from them.”

Art listens intently as he gathers news from across the world. “I don’t miss my country; I miss the people there. Cause I think it’s a home. It’s not like a place. It’s more like the people that surround us.”

At World Relief, Art has surrounded himself with new friendships. He laughs alongside his coworkers and joins in on the jokes. He is a part of the team. “There is a community. There are people I can talk with.”

Volunteering at World Relief may be an unpaid job, but Art is certain he has been given a gift through his long hours of service.

“Here I found new friends. A new community for me.”

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