Student Service Profile: Sam Barber
A student in the TransAtlantic Masters Program, Sam Barber volunteered with Duke student organization INJAZ, which strives to achieve a partnership that creates an exciting environment for cultural and Arabic/English language exchange. He was partnered with a recently resettled refugee and began weekly visits to help him improve his English language skills. He shared with us some reflections about his experience volunteering.
After returning to UNC during the peak of the Refugee Crisis, I made the decision to get involved as a volunteer in the refugee community in Chapel Hill. Through INJAZ, a student organization that works with Syrian refugees, I was partnered with a recently resettled refugee and began weekly visits to help him improve his English language skills. Each week we divided our time between writing activities, reciting phrases, and reading passages from comic books. At first, I was pretty nervous and our interactions were a little awkward. Both his English and my Arabic were pretty rough, so there were many times when we struggled to communicate clearly. However, fast-forward three years and I am extremely happy that I chose to stick with it.
In the years since my first visit, both of us have improved our conversation skills in English and Arabic by leaps and bounds. Despite the initial nervousness, our meetings are now something I look forward to every week and though I will be leaving Chapel Hill soon, I plan to keep in touch and drop in for visits whenever I can. This experience has also impacted my professional and academic goals, as refugee issues are now a primary focus of my graduate studies and something I hope to work with in the future.
I would strongly encourage anyone considering volunteering for refugees or other migrant communities to take the leap and do it. Making meaningful and lasting relationships with these communities can go a long way towards constructing a more inclusive North Carolina that embraces difference and diversity.
For those interested, organizations like INJAZ, Refugee Community Partnership, Refugee Health Initiative, and Church World Service are always looking for passionate volunteers who are ready to get involved and make a difference.