A volunteer with a local diocesan resettlement program wrote to USCCB/MRS and explained why helping refugees is so important to her:
“About my experience with refugees, it is difficult to summarize the experience in a few words. Working with refugees has changed my life, truly. Just as having cancer has changed my life and in many ways has enriched it too. The refugees have opened my eyes to parts of the world that did not really exist for me, except through newspaper articles.
It is one thing to read about loss but it is quite another thing to read it in someone’s eyes. Having worked with them I feel much more like a citizen of the world than I ever did. Helping them erase the memories of the losses and recreate a life and a home in this country is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
Giving them the gift of a new language, teaching them reading and writing, seeing the joy on their faces when they finally understand the signs they see on doors and in the street, when one of their children receive an American passport – all of these things fill me with happiness.
I have had challenging jobs before, stressful jobs, but I have never felt as useful as I do now. I feel that I am achieving what my parents taught me one should achieve – improving someone’s life a little bit and giving them choices.
Maybe there is also a selfish note in all of that. It is that working with refugees has helped me to accept cancer. It has helped me to see that no matter how painful the treatments might be, they are still nothing compared to the experiences that refugees have had. The fear of losing one’s life is something they have endured for longer than I have and in far worse conditions. They make me appreciate my life and they make me feel incredibly grateful for all I have.”
San Jose, CA