Empathy and Skill
“I’ve never been a refugee,” says Jenny Park, “but I feel like we all have moments where you feel like you don’t belong anywhere. For me, it was feeling emotionally displaced sometimes while growing up as an immigrant.”
Jenny joined World Relief as a volunteer tutor in the summer of 2020. Having immigrated to central Indiana from Korea with her family as a Kindergartener, she felt well-equipped to empathize and support other young immigrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers.
“My heart and the experiences I’ve had make me feel especially for young refugees,” she says. “They soak in and pick up the language much faster. They come over and have to be a leader of the family. As an immigrant I went through some of that as well.”
In order to help her family with finances, Jenny began tutoring other Korean immigrants while in high school, working with up to 12 students at one point. Developing this skill prepared her for her work as a volunteer.
“I always knew I wanted to do something to help people,” she says. “When I was little, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do something to help when I become a doctor.’ But when I started volunteering with World Relief, I asked myself, ‘Well, what can I do now?’ Since I’ve been tutoring so many years already, it was like I kind of had this program inside of me – like how to deal with students and lead the class. That’s how I decided to start tutoring with World Relief.”
Jenny received training and support from World Relief staff, who connected her with Medina, a young woman from East Africa who speaks four languages and dreams to be an English teacher. Facing barriers related to e-learning during COVID-19, Medina was able to meet consistently with Jenny for extra English practice and homework support through the school year. (Read Medina’s story here.)
“It was rewarding that I was able to make this relationship with Medina,” says Jenny. “It would have been almost impossible for us to meet if it wasn’t for this virtual world we’re all living in due to COVID…When you become a helper, it’s really easy to feel like it’s a weird, hierarchical position. But I feel like we’ve created a beautiful friendship...”
As a volunteer in World Relief’s Youth Program, you’ll be equipped to put your skills and life experience to use. You’ll have the opportunity to walk alongside young people like Medina as they lay a foundation for life in the United States. Most importantly, you’ll be invited to become not just a helper, but a friend.
Writing and interview by Jacob Mau