Damme’s father came to the United States as a refugee many years ago. She has spent this summer as an intern at World Relief learning more about what the resettlement process looks like and getting to know some of our newest neighbors. Much of her time is spent going to appointments with refugees and teaching them to navigate their new community.
It is the end of summer and I am driving to and fro, making new friends faster than I ever have before, learning new ways to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ and altogether finding out my place in this space where God has set me. Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to understand who I am through the eyes of the people I have met. They have told me that I am lucky to have my citizenship—that I am entrusted with a security they are seeking after long and hard. I am privileged with a recognition they must wait years to obtain. They have asked me if all of this is easy for me, noticing how I can communicate with Social Security or DSHS or the Bank to sort out their information and get the necessary cards. I think of how I have learned to work with the American system. I can ask questions because the people behind the desk don’t seem too daunting, I am able to read the fine print because I live in a country where I was required to go to school for twelve years, and I can get where I need to go simply because I have the keys to a car and a license that allows me to travel with ease.
My perspective has changed. I see the world around me through a different lens now and it cannot be erased. They have told me that they are grateful for all that I am doing for them, that I am helping them with so much; yet all I can think is how they are doing so much more for me. Every interaction I have is filled with laughter and contentment. I am so happy to be here.
Privilege. My life screams it loud and clear. Yet the privilege and the resources I hold and cherish have come out of a struggle and an experience that I cannot call my own. It is foreign to me. Foreign like the parents I call Mommy and Daddy, foreign like their birthplace, and foreign like the culture I carry within me. The foreign experience is my own, it has been passed down to me. The many years that my mother and father toiled the land brought forth a family, a house, a college education, cars and countless other blessings that I am free to partake in. I am free, but it is with a price that I can proclaim that.
For such a time as this I find myself at World Relief. I find myself circling back onto the story that laid the foundation for my own life. I am relearning who my father is, I am relearning my parent’s experience and within it all I am relearning who I am. This internship has allowed me to pull out of a life where I have lived for myself and pushed me into understanding what it means to live for others.
World Relief internships provide hands-on experience with refugees in the Seattle area. If you are interested in a World Relief Internship, or know someone who might be, find more information here.