Working with New Americans

Working with New Americans is a rewarding experience but it can also be a challenging one. Above all, be prepared for anything and think on your feet, and you’ll be just fine – but also keep in mind these important points:

  1. Take time to build trust – because of past experiences, building a trusting relationship may take time.
  2. Be yourself. Share about yourself, too.
  3. Accept that things won’t always go as planned. Be flexible.
  4. Enter their world and invite them into yours.
  5. Answer questions honestly and always treat the families/individuals fairly and with respect.
  6. Celebrate milestones – point out how far they’ve come.
  7. Give and receive – you are equals. Accept your own mistakes by showing your willingness to correct them.
  8. Help build a bridge for New Americans to the community.
  9. Don’t offer something if you can’t follow through. Keep your promises.
  10. Set boundaries (time, tasks, etc.).
  11. Misunderstanding happen. Communicate as clearly as possible.
  12. If you don’t know, ask. Be prepared to answer questions. You’re both learning.
  13. Some New Americans may want or feel obligated to give you gifts during your time working with them. Be mindful that you are not taking advantage of this.
  14. Become mindful of cultural differences. learn more about their cultures, customs, values and cultural practices.
  15. Volunteers are not mandated reporters. If you’re uncomfortable with a situation, talk to the case manager. Don’t be afraid to tell us at G+L anything.
  16. Refer to the appropriate agency when something is beyond your area of expertise. If you are not a social worker, healthcare provider, or refugee resettlement agency representative, do not attempt to take on that role.

This list comes from the Global Friends Coalition Orientation Package: recommended reading for additional information on the resettlement process, culture shock, and privilege.

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