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:
- Take time to build trust – because of past experiences, building a trusting relationship may take time.
- Be yourself. Share about yourself, too.
- Accept that things won’t always go as planned. Be flexible.
- Enter their world and invite them into yours.
- Answer questions honestly and always treat the families/individuals fairly and with respect.
- Celebrate milestones – point out how far they’ve come.
- Give and receive – you are equals. Accept your own mistakes by showing your willingness to correct them.
- Help build a bridge for New Americans to the community.
- Don’t offer something if you can’t follow through. Keep your promises.
- Set boundaries (time, tasks, etc.).
- Misunderstanding happen. Communicate as clearly as possible.
- If you don’t know, ask. Be prepared to answer questions. You’re both learning.
- 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.
- Become mindful of cultural differences. learn more about their cultures, customs, values and cultural practices.
- 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.
- 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.