I recently sat down with Bailie, one of our volunteers at RLP, to ask how she got involved as a mentor. Bailie works in journalism, and after reading some articles a few years ago about Amarillo’s refugee populations on BuzzFeed and the Texas Observer, she realized she didn’t know much about what was happening in her own city. That’s when she began following RLP on Instagram, Facebook and the website. She also invested time in reading books and novels written by authors of various nationalities. Bailie knew she wanted to volunteer, but then COVID hit. She bided her time, like so many of us, unsure of when to step back into volunteer roles. Then, last summer, the crisis in Afghanistan flooded our news feeds. Bailie happened to be reading Khaled Housseini’s novel And the Mountains Echoed when American forces pulled out of Afghanistan and began to airlift over 120,000 people out of the country. She devoured news articles and came to the conclusion that now was the time to step out. “We think of it as a global issue, but it’s a local issue too.”
Bailie participated in our zoom call “From Amarillo to Afghanistan: How Can We Help?” and then attended a volunteer meeting. She put her name and contact information down on the sign up paper, and received a call a few days later from our mentorship coordinator, Jennifer. Jen walked her through a brief training and then decided to pair her with a Chin woman from Burma named Dar.
As with all of our mentor matches, Jen took Bailie to meet Dar for the first time. After making sure they had each other’s contact information and a good schedule of when to meet, Jen let them meet on their own the next time. “That helped me,” she said, “because then I knew the basics and I figured she might know more English than I expected.” Bailie was surprised at how quickly the two of them connected. “It might take less time than you think to warm up to a new person and create a friendship. With just a little bit of effort and open mindedness, you can create a meaningful relationship that will give back to you as much as you can give to it.”
If you’re wondering if you are mentor material, the answer is probably yes! We have many recently resettled Afghan men and women who are eager to connect one-on-one with a local friend to help them navigate their new environment. We currently have close to 50 Amarillo residents already in mentor relationships with people from over a dozen countries. Do you want to join this network of welcoming neighbors?
Bailie didn’t have any cross-cultural experience before volunteering with RLP. Like many people in Amarillo, she was interested in the news, and in finding out who her neighbors are. We would love to connect you with an interested refugee, too. You just need a minimum of an hour a week and a willingness to learn. If you have been on the fence about getting connected, now is the time! We are always looking for new mentors. Jennifer will give you the same training and introduction that Bailie had, and we will walk with you every step of the way, from identifying your new friends’s goals to equipping you to work towards those goals together. Send Jen an email today and let her know you are interested!