Volunteers are so essential to the work we do at Refugee Services. Since every volunteer is so unique and brings their own perspective to the work of welcoming new refugees, we wanted to introduce you to one volunteer this month to give you just a peek!
Pete Kallal started volunteering with Refugee Services in 2013 after teaching 4th and 5th grade for 35 years. He began as a Bridging appointment volunteer, but quickly found his niche teaching Jump Start classes. (Jump Start is a 3 week class that introduces brand new arrivals to key skills for life in America, like bus riding, financial literacy, job seeking, and safety).
What inspired you to get started?
Thee generations ago, my great grandparents immigrated from the Czech Republic. We are all immigrants (except Native Americans) at some point. As a teacher, I used to do research on students’ last names to help them find out their history. After I retired, I started looking through different agencies and MCC seemed like a good fit. Among other things, I appreciated that there was no proselytizing to new refugees. I wanted to help them improve their lives, but not seek to change them.
What do you do as a volunteer with RS?
I teach Financial Literacy and Job Readiness. Financial Literacy includes skills like writing numbers, using a calculator, identifying currency, and making purchases. We also cover banking build trust in the idea of putting your money in a bank, which can be scary to do for the first time. In Job Readiness, we cover job interviews, American work standards, what employers are looking for in employees, what American workplaces look like, employment-specific terms, payment arrangements, keeping a job, and ending a job well.
What do you enjoy most about working with refugees?
The enjoyment of learning about refugees’ cultures. They love to share and teach with me and I love to take the time to learn from them in class.
Have any of your volunteer experiences surprised you or changed the way you think about refugees?
I am continually amazed at refugees’ spirit and courage. I’m always hearing things like: “I’m ready to work. When can I start?” They have so much eagerness and courage despite everything they’ve been through and in a totally new culture. They’re ready to go!
I’ve also been surprised by their generosity. I’ve made the mistake of complimenting a Karen person’s bag or shirt and been gifted one the next day, even when they have so little.
The staff at Refugee Services is remarkable. There isn’t one person I’ve talked to or worked with who doesn’t give it their all. You just don’t see that unless people really believe in what they’re doing. (Thanks, Pete!)
Thank you so much to each of our volunteers! If you’re interested in volunteering with Refugee Services, please check out our volunteer page and sign up for an orientation.