I remember how nervous I was the first time I drove a refugee family home from the airport. I was so keenly aware of every lane change, stop, and turn because I kept thinking about what precious passengers I had that night. I was their first introduction to America, to Minnesota, and to their new lives.
As refugees, I knew they’d already experienced untold persecution, trauma, and fear. I knew they’d waited for years in a refugee camp, and waded through months of paperwork and interviews just to get to this point—arriving in the United States to start a new life. I’m sure they were full of hope and uncertainty.
As I drove, I wanted them to feel comfortable, and to be reassured that they had come to a safe and beautiful place. I always felt badly during the winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the trees bare. How could I explain this season to someone from a faraway place where trees keep their leaves year-round? A Somali refugee I had greeted months earlier once told me that he was afraid he had arrived to another drought-stricken place before he learned about winters in Minnesota. Now, he laughs when he tells the story.
I am still keenly aware of the privilege I have every time I greet refugees at the airport and drive them to their new home. I am humbled and grateful for the trust they place in me as I bundle their precious children into unfamiliar car seats, stow their only belongings in my trunk, and, sometimes, divide their family into multiple vehicles. I drive with extra care on those days as I point out the beautiful Minneapolis skyline to people who are seeing it for the very first time.
Experiencing your home through the eyes of a newcomer is an incredible opportunity, and it’s an experience I highly recommend. Contact MCC Refugee Services, find out what kind of involvement might be a good fit for you, and make your own memories! You can email email@example.com or call 612-230-3219.
By Kristin Zoellner. Kristin served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with MCC Refugee Services and then as Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for several years.