Closing the Social Distance from Afar
by Mike Sullivan, Agency Director
How does one close a social distance from afar? And how does our community safely connect to the refugees whom we welcome? And how do we stay connected with our volunteers, who we miss so much? Refugees and volunteers feel a similar void. Isolation. Let me share some background to the dilemma and what The Welcome to America Project is doing to continue our welcomes.
Newly settled refugees feel liberated, yet isolated. They do not yet have history with the relationships that connect us to community. Their friends, schools, employers and places of worship, all new to them, are suddenly absent from their day-to-day lives. The comforting physical presence of the resettlement agencies is less physically accessible. And once friendly faces now wear masks over their smiles. For many, this uncertainty conjures up feelings they experienced in the early days in refugee camps, feeling sheltered and safe from harm but confused as to what the future holds.
Volunteers also feel a tremendous void. Our body clocks tell us that today is a volunteer day, and we should be doing something to welcome refugees. Warehouse and weekend volunteers miss the camaraderie and sense of purpose their service provides. Like refugees, volunteers are confused about what the future holds and how long this uncertainty will continue.