When most people think of volunteering, they think of giving back to the their local community, but some outreach programs may have even farther reaching effects. One First Coast organization is involved right here in local communities, but also plays the role of good samaritan on the international stage as well. World Relief Jacksonville has been successfully relocating refugees from countries all over the world including Burma, Afghanistan and Iraq since the 1991. As men, women and children fight each day simply to survive, the hopes of leaving behind a life of turmoil are often made in vain.
World Relief seeks to not only help as many of these victims as possible, but also to set an example in the United States by showing how these people can be productive, peaceful and a true asset to our diverse nation. The key to achieving this feat is education and awareness of the intensity of the refugee struggle.
There’s a common misconception that refugees leave their home country by choice, but the reality is these people were forced to relocate due to war, natural disaster or political persecution. Travis Trice works for World Relief Jacksonville and has heard many different stories from refugees over the years.
“The first thing as a refugee is you literally flee. You have to leave your home,” said Trice. “The story is always different. Sometimes a government will give you a time frame to leave and other times it’s gunfire in the middle of the night. So it’s all different but the result is always the same – you have to flee in fear of your life.”
Refugees spend an average of three years in refugee camps waiting to be relocated and according to Trice, less than half of one percent of all refugees have a chance of being relocated. Often, refugees may even spend ten years or more in a camp.
For those that are given the opportunity to relocate, once they arrive their difficult journey has just begun, but here on the First Coast volunteers are ready to help make that transition as joyful and easy as possible. World Relief volunteers are there from the moment refugees first step off the plane. They do their best to make this lengthy, challenging process of adapting to American culture easier. They assist in all aspects of the transition from teaching them English to helping them get a job.
“They say ‘I may not be able to do all of it, but I can do some of it,”” said World Relief Volunteer Hannah Nunez when speaking of the refugees attitude while adapting to American society. “These people are truly resilient.”
Without the support these volunteers provide, many of these people would face even more uncertainty. World Relief welcomes these men and women with open arms and an atmosphere of love when they need it most.