On July 18, 2015, nine of our employees traveled to Our Lady of Charity Garden at Oak Cliff Dallas to volunteer on the behalf of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Today on World Refugee Day, we want to touch back on an experience we hope to do again this summer.
The IRC, founded by Albert Einstein in 1933, is a nonprofit organization that helps refugees whose lives have been shattered by conflict and disaster to service, recover, and gain control of their future. Thousands of these immigrants are invited by the government to seek safety and freedom here in the United States. An essential part of the organization, the New Roots program ‒ through community gardening, nutrition education, and small business farming ‒ helps immigrants become competent and self-supporting, which allows them to build a better future for themselves and for the community. New Roots is an extra step to creating independent and productive citizens that will help strengthen the world.
ASCI took action and volunteered to help improve their gardens.
Our team was not afraid to get down and dirty; they joined together and worked for almost 5 hours. Labor consisted of cultivating the rough terrain, weeding multiple garden beds, and mulching the garden’s walkways all under 100° weather. Realizing it was a task many do daily for a living, it was an eye-opening experience our staff later reflected on.
“I love leaving a sense of hope in strangers’ minds and hearts,” Online Sales Representative Blanca Ortiz said. “The fact [that] they are from different parts of the world is intriguing. Although we didn’t necessarily communicate in words, we still understood each other. They understood we were there to help and that’s all that matters.”
Seeing the only place you’ve ever known deteriorate to pieces is hard enough. Let alone having to flee to an unfamiliar country knowing you might not ever come back home. These families leave with nothing but their own faith and determination. The IRC strives to improve the lives of these refugees. In fact, they managed to resettle more than 10,000 immigrants in 2013.
“I feel for them because it must be very hard to leave a country that they loved, but that is going through tragedy,” marketing assistant Rocio Castillo said. “However, the United States is the best country in the world and I do hope [these families] reunite soon.”
You cannot fully understand the raw pain and experience of a bad situation unless you go through it. CS Quality Control representative Amparo Soto, however, did what most don’t ever do: she put herself in their shoes.
“It’s sad to know that they had to leave it all to come to an unknown place, and to start over again in a strange place that doesn’t even speak your language,” Soto said. “It also gave me a sense of bonding because [their story,] although different, is similar to my family’s and many other families I know.”
Our staff were not the only volunteers present. About an hour later into the blazing morning, a – few others showed up and joined in.
“It feels good helping people in need,” Ortiz said. “Doing something for others without expecting anything in return helps me let people know that there is still good people on this earth.”
As our staff shoveled and cultivated, a Bhutanese family curiously observed them from afar. It was a family of 3 ‒ a parent pair and a small child. They did not know English, except for the father, whom did the speaking . Despite the lingual dissimilarity, both our staff and the immigrant family interchanged the universal language: a smile.
“I personally enjoyed meeting new people,” Soto said. “Although the interaction with the refugees was limited because of the language barrier, a smile went a long way.”
Collaborating with the IRC fulfilled more than our original intent to help make a positive impact. It brought our employees closer. Because the company is organized into different departments, staff interaction is slightly limited. When asked if they wanted to participate, employees from different branches jumped at the opportunity. Volunteering helped these families and the staff to learn more about each other.
“It felt great working with team members that I don’t usually interact with on the daily,” Castillo said. “We are able to socialize and help the community at the same time. I felt like the values of the company aligned with those of the IRC.”
After a few hours, the directors called for a “corporate break.” Huddled into a storage barn, the crew freshened up and took the opportunity to ask the directors several questions, which ranged from what it takes to be a selected refugee to how they can donate.
“I gained insight on the process that a refugee must go through to be able to get approved,” Soto said. “The process is definitely a long one. For the most part, they don’t get to decide where they get asylum unless they have relatives in a different country that is providing refuge and they can go there. If their home country for a miraculous reason is safe to return they go back, which foremost is [IRC’s] goal. Most refugees [qualify] because their country is a war torn country or are suffering from religious persecution.”
Castillo enjoyed learning “about the resources the IRC provides to refugees around the world.”
Some employees were first time volunteers.
“I’ve always had it in the back of my head that I would want to volunteer, but I never took the initiative to do it myself,” Soto said. “When the opportunity was brought to me I jumped at the chance.”
Working for hours nonstop under the Texas heat made the tasks a little tougher ‒ especially the hidden gigantic wasp nest. Despite the unlucky situations experienced by our courteous team, they wouldn’t mind going through it again.
“I enjoy volunteering because I have always felt like it is just part of who I am,” Ortiz said. “I always think to myself, ‘that could be me, my son, my grandchild, brother.’ I would most definitely do it again, even if I get stung by bees.”
Our ACSI staff loved volunteering for the IRC and appreciated the generous volunteer directors for being patient and informative.
“It was definitely a rewarding experience knowing I was helping the New Roots program at the IRC,” Castillo said.
We appreciate those employees who gave up a Saturday just to help make a change and get a taste of the outside work thousands of other people do every day. We will definitely continue providing these opportunities in the future.
“I enjoyed spending time with some of my coworkers and friends outside of work and enjoying each other’s company, while making a difference no matter how big or small we feel that difference might have been,” Soto said. “Volunteering may be a little selfish‒ we do it to help other people because it makes us feel good about ourselves. It doesn’t matter the reason, as long as you are making a difference in the world, I say let’s be a little more selfish.” It’s easy to become aware of the nation’s problems, but it’s difficult to stand up and take action.
Imagine seeing your home disintegrate right before your eyes, Loud booms and frantic screaming surround you. Running away from the only place you’ve ever known leaving everything you’ve ever had, leaves you with nothing but your own faith and determination, and strength to keep on going without ever looking back.
Do your part. Stand for something. Join the movement. Donate, volunteer, or become a member today. Strengthen the faith and hope of these refugees. Alone we can do so little, but together we can accomplish so much.
Check out www.rescue.org to find out how you can help.