Day 2: Tarjeta de Identificación is Spanish for ID Card; but Jazz, a Coke and a Smile is a Universal Language.

It's in Cristalynne's nature to lend a helping hand.

 

It's in my nature to lend a helping hand whenever I can.

It’s in Cristalynne’s nature to lend a helping hand.

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This angel was eager for me to show her how to make a fan. Her grandmother just smiled at her granddaughter learning something new. My team and I were leaving she told me to always keep that spirit about myself.

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Before leaving I connected strangers in conversation which led to the little girl learning now to make an airplane.

Today I was responsible for helping three of the approximate 260 people that will take refuge in Memphis apply for their social security cards. These refugees faced war and persecution in their native homelands. I worked with World Relief Memphis a faith based resource to aid these people in “replanting their lives.”  With World Relief helps immigrants become self-sufficient within six to eight months.

I sat down with Kate Foster, Volunteer Coordinator and Church Mobilizer, to learn more about the people that I would be picking up today and taking to the social security administration office (SS). She first asked did I speak Spanish; I instantly wished that I had become more fluent in the language as I had planned to years ago. She assured me that what I did know could be helpful. I knew she was right as I recalled my days of working as an Opryland Hotel guest services clerk when a coworker drafted me to check-in Spanish speaking guests who knew no English. Today, I would be working with a Somali man who spoke a little English and a Cuban couple that spoke no English.

After I left the World Relief office to pick up everybody up at their homes, I played out the anticipated scenes in my mind of me knocking on doors and making efforts for them to understand what I was there today. Upon my first arrival I was flipping through my instructions and searching my Google Translate app for key words that I would need for the day when the person that I came to pick up noticed me and smiled. I got out and managed to say his name that I had been practicing along my drive. He smiled and said, “Yes!”  I said the names of the forms that he needed to have for the SS office. He in turn, unfolded the paperwork that he had. I looked at it said yes and smiled.

Then we were off to pick up the couple. Getting into my truck, he and I struggled our way through communication. Once inside, I started up and my radio came on to University of Memphis’ WUMR – “The Jazz Lover.”  He paused, looked at my speaker, then back at me and smiled. At that point, I knew that everything was fine.

When I got to the couple’s home, I got out and went to the door. After my knock, I heard someone say something. But both language and muffled sound barriers were both playing against me. However, I shouted back, “World Relief.”  The wife opens the door. And motions for me to come in after I showed her paperwork that I could see looked familiar to her. She and I tried to communicate with each other, but we kept hitting walls. She reached to pick up what I could see was her notepad that she used for instances such as this. As he was doing this I paused and said, “Mi llamo Crista.”  She bounced up quickly with a smile and said her name as well. Excitedly, she continued speaking as if knowing because of my introduction that I would be able to responded. I tried. But soon I resorted to calling the World Relief office for a translator.

Prior to us leaving the husband motioned as if he were drinking something and said, “Coca-Cola.”  I smiled and said, “Yes!”  I stopped drinking sodas years ago and don’t remember the last time that I had a Coke. However, I took that one and drank it with a smile because of the joy that I had in understanding him with no complications and the pride that I saw he had in relaying his message to me.

At the SS office I got everybody checked-in and ensured that everyone was comfortable.  Experiencing a long wait just the same, I noticed a grandmother attempting to keep her granddaughter occupied as she answered question after question. In efforts to give the grandmother a rest for a moment or two, I asked the little girl if she could make a fan. She said no and I told her that I would teach her.

That was when someone else who had been waiting a while mentioned how she loved to make airplanes as a kid. After the little girl ran back to her grandmother with glee showing off her new fan, the grandmother looked at me with a smile that had thank you written all over it. I made an effort to keep the time moving for the people because me and my crew were about to leave. So I told the little girl to ask the other lady if she would show her how to make an airplane. Everyone smiled. As we left, I told them goodbye and to have a good day. The grandmother said, “You do the same and keep doing what you’re doing.”

I assume that she saw a little bit of what I had done when I helped the people that I brought to the office fill out their SS card applications. But having been exposed to and embraced the wisdom of mothers in my life, I could see that she read deeper into seeing me do the paperwork, get her granddaughter interested in something new and connecting more people to each other upon leaving the room.

It’s an energy that I carry with me, that I don’t necessarily realize is there because it’s something that has always been there. I don’t know life without it. However, when we left the office I realized and felt that energy as I smiled in what had previously been a somewhat cold room full of people that had probably been waiting for hours. I was more aware of what’s been called my infectious energy broke stoic faces that smiled back when I passed them with a smile.

 

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? With more than 10 years experience, Cristalynne Dupree is searching for a job where she will use her marketing, public relations and communications skill to coordinate strategies and tactics that will reach and engage the organization’s target audience.  Contact her at 1225Cristalynne@gmail.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Refugees in Memphis

On Day 4 of my Volunteer Odyssey, I had the opportunity give back in a way to return some of the help I’ve received over the years. Have you ever been in a situation where someone helps you so much that you profoundly pray for a moment where you can return the favor or at least pay it forward? Well, throughout my life I’ve been blessed to be in the presence of great and wondrous people with giving hearts and willing spirits, especially during my time as a Peace Corps volunteer.

My opportunity came as a volunteer with World Relief Memphis. Background (their words) – World Relief is a refugee resettlement agency. They are funded largely by grants to help refugees start life in Memphis who have fled persecution from countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. World Relief is responsible for providing housing, social services, cultural orientation, and pathways to employment. I was asked to assist a Cuban couple, who had been living in Memphis for a little over a year, with their Department of Human Services (DHS) appointment. I was to pick them up from their house, drive them to the DHS office, and take them home.

When I arrived at their apartment, their 14-year-old son greeted me. He was very pleasant. I was soon introduced to the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Telz (name changed to protect their privacy). No one spoke English, so I delved right into my Spanish skills, which definitely needed sharpening. The couple wasn’t ready, so I waited in the living room with their son. We chatted a bit. He told me how he loves Memphis, i.e. USA, because things are so much cheaper than in Cuba. As our conversation ended, he thanked me for helping his parents and told me “goodbye” in English.

The drive to the DHS office was quiet and hot. This would be the first day I would use my AC in quite some time. Of course it didn’t work properly. I was a bit embarrassed, but the Telzs reassured me it was fine and it reminded them of the heat in Cuba. We all laughed, and they began to tell me more about Cuba as I told them about Memphis. The DHS office was full of people, and I thought it would be hours before our name was called. World Relief said DHS had a language line but when it came time for them to see their DHS representative, neither they nor the representative wanted me to leave. The Telzs said they felt better with me around, and the DHS representative said things would be much easier with an interpreter. It was at this moment when I was reminded of the family I lived with in Guatemala during my time as a Peace Corps volunteer. They were my rock, shield, and confidants in a strange land. It was at this moment when I knew and could relate to how they were feeling – unsure, nervous, excited, and so much more. I happily accepted the task. This was my opportunity to show the gratitude and thankfulness of my Guatemala family’s 2 years of hospitality, love, friendship, and helpfulness happily given to me with open arms and kind hearts. I was not going to miss this opportunity.

My brain was on super power! I’ve never been an interpreter and was unfamiliar with DHS services. I had to learn the programs offered by DHS, apply them to the Telz family’s situation, and then translate to Spanish. It was very tiring yet extremely exciting because I knew both parties were really grateful. After all was said and done, (i.e., Telz family understood their options and received benefits) everyone left happy, smiling, and with much more clarity of opportunities of support for the Telz family.

Our trip home was much more relaxed. The Telz family shared a bit more about their experiences in the USA and I shared my experiences in Guatemala. The family expressed their deep appreciation for all my help and offered coffee so we could chat a bit more at their home. I was unable to stay, though reassured them I could be reached if ever they needed anything. This volunteer assignment ended on an extremely happy note with the beginnings of a new friendship.

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Home is where the heart is…

We use the phrase “Home is where the heart is” quite often without really thinking about what it signifies in the lives of people in other situations.  Today my eyes were opened as I volunteered with Kate Foster, the Church Mobilizer/Volunteer Coordinator at World Relief Memphis.   World Relief helps refugees escape war and persecution, and gets them started in their new lives in the United States.

Logan and I in the moving truck ~ fun!

Logan and I in the moving truck ~ fun!

When I arrived at the office housed in the Union Avenue Baptist Church building, I was very excited to learn the details of my assignment.  All I knew going into the day was that I would help a refugee family fleeing Afghanistan by setting up their new apartment, a job right up my alley because I do some freelance home decorating.  Naturally, I was thrilled at the idea of creating a haven for a family seeking safety, even more so when I was told there would be a baby involved.  I was also asked when I arrived at the office if I was comfortable loading and unloading furniture.  After 17 moves in 20 years while married to a Marine, absolutely!

Oh yes I can!

Oh yes I can!

I worked with Logan, a 24-year-old college student with a huge heart for serving and helping others.  Imagine the shock on his face when he was standing before me and was told that I, at 5’1″, would be helping him move an entire truckload of furniture. I quickly introduced myself and assured him I was up to the task.

The coolest and scariest part of my day was going to the warehouse that housed all the furniture to go into these apartments.  It was exhilarating because it was like having an entire store at my disposal and scary because of all the possible spiders!  Logan and I picked out lovely lamps and furniture, but my biggest joy came from hand-selecting bottles and a pack-n-play for the baby.

The storage facility!

The storage facility!

Hmmm...which tele?

Hmmm…which tele?

When it was time to move the furniture into the apartment, we were told it was not yet ready, this was very disappointing to me.  I felt incomplete by not finishing my job.  I, after all, had hand picked furniture from the warehouse and wanted to place it in the apartment to make it a home for this new family.  Oftentimes things do not turn out as we plan, but at the end of the day, I made new friends and found a new place where I hope to volunteer my time.  I would love to work as a tutor with the children who are relocated here in Memphis, teaching them new life skills and helping them adjust to entirely new surroundings.

Almost loaded!

Almost loaded!

A quick pit-stop at La Michoacana for avocado popsicles~ so yummy!!

A quick pit-stop at La Michoacana for avocado popsicles~ so yummy!!

 

Thank you for reading!  Know an employer that’s looking for someone who’s great with kids? Need an event planner, organizer, or fundraiser?  Send an email our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or shelly2903@gmail.com.

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World Relief: A Whole New World

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World Relief Memphis is located at Union Avenue Baptist Church, which is where I met Kate Foster.  Kate is the Volunteer Coordinator/Church Mobilizer.  She sat down with me and explained what World Relief is and what their mission is. Their mission is to help refugees that have fled his or her homeland because of persecution or well-founded fear of persecution through race, religious beliefs, social groups, nationality or political opinion.  World Relief has only been in Memphis since August 2012. Their main goals are to help churches rediscover the Biblical roots of Christian hospitality – welcoming the stranger and working with refugees as the replant their lives in the United States.  World Relief offers a number of resources including: cultural orientation, arrange housing, furniture, household supplies, enroll clients in government services, counseling, medical, English referrals, and employment assistance.  While I was at their office, I helped with the volunteer process by making phone calls to references for people who want to volunteer for World Relief.  Volunteers share what they have learned from years of experience living in the United States – the English language, how to buy groceries or fill out paperwork in a doctor’s office, and the ins and outs of American culture.

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This was definitely a whole new world. I was in my car on the way to pick up an Iraqi couple to take them to their doctor’s appointment.  I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous with a million questions going through my head for example. Will I be able to understand them? Will they be able to understand me? What will it be like sitting at the doctor’s office with them?  Once I arrived at their place, I was greeted with pleasant smiles and they introduced themselves.  Their names are Tariq(pronounced tar-ak) and Alyaa(pronounced all-lia).  I was surprised within a few seconds I had a calming sense that even though we didn’t really understand each other everything was going to be just fine.  After the doctor’s appointment, Tariq and Alyaa had big smiles on their faces and said thank you a million times, I knew then that I was truly blessed to have this experience through World Relief Memphis because even though there was a language barrier, God’s love can be seen in all languages.

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Matthew 25:35 says, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.”  As humans, we should always be willing to help each other no matter what the situation is.  I can’t imagine having to move to a different country away from my family and friends with a language barrier – not to mention – a whole new culture to learn. I am thankful for World Relief because even though we might speak a different language, we are all God’s children.  We are here to serve others but especially to serve God above all.  If you want to help World Relief, they are having a Spring Cleaning Donations Drive March 25-27.  Items they are asking for are: sofas, chairs, rugs, kitchen tables, baby items, and vacuum cleaners to name a few.  For more information please go to their website www.worldreliefmemphis.org/springcleaning.

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Thank you for reading! Blair Hayes is searching for a job where she can merge her enthusiasm for our community with her education and experience; she can bring a positive attitude ministering to high school students, college-aged students and families.  If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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