An Opportunity to Give Back
An invaluable part of the IRC, interns and volunteers play an integral role in helping refugees adjust to their new lives in America. Whether they are escorting a newly arrived family from Iraq to the public benefit office, helping an individual from Eritrea fill out his first job application in America or exchanging gardening practices with a Burmese farmer, interns and volunteers bring an incredible amount of energy, dedication and expertise to our offices.
For a former refugee who resettled to the US at age 13, the opportunity to return to the IRC 12 years later in the capacity of volunteer casework assistant seemed a natural way to give back and share his resettlement story with others. A Sierra Leonean-Egyptian mix, Omar spoke little English when he first arrived in New Jersey in 2001, together with his parents and younger sister. "Now I speak English with my sister", Omar laughs. A recent graduate in Middle Eastern Studies from Rutgers University, Omar dreams of becoming a Cultural Affairs Officer for a US Embassy overseas, a dream within the reach of this talented and soft spoken young man.
When asked about his motivation to volunteer at the IRC, Omar enthusiastically answers: "I can relate to the people that come through the front door of the office; especially the younger generation, but also the adults. I was a refugee myself; even though I was young, I understand the challenges but also the great opportunity of coming to America.” A fluent Arabic speaker, Omar was instrumental in his role as casework assistant and translator for newly resettled Iraqis - from helping individuals fill out social security applications, assisting parents and children with school enrolments, to teaching them how to navigate through cultural differences.
“I always tell them: be proactive, and excel at everything you do, especially to the younger generation. Opportunities in the US are limitless!”
And so it seems. After his 7-month assignment as a volunteer with the IRC in New Jersey, Omar was able to secure employment as a credential evaluator in the Middle East group at World Education Services (WES), a non-profit organization that provides research about international education and trends, and offers expert credential evaluation services.