Bowdoin College is in Brunswick, Maine. Lutheran Services of Georgia is in Atlanta. Last week, 12 volunteers from the liberal-arts college in Maine made the long trip to Atlanta for an alternative spring break service project. Why would a group of volunteers travel all this way for a weeklong service trip?
They traveled here because they wanted to learn more about the issues surrounding refugee resettlement and to interact closely with men, women, and children who have come to the United States as refugees. Although Maine has a sizable population of Somali refugees, LSG and other agencies in Atlanta offer volunteers an opportunity to visit families from around the world, while also learning about resettlement from professionals who have been working with the refugee population for many years.
During their week in Atlanta, the volunteers from Bowdoin did a lot of tutoring: in the mornings, they helped out at LSG’s employment training and tutored adults in Clarkston, while in the afternoons they worked at Global Village Project, a school in Decatur for teenage refugee girls.
The volunteers also had an opportunity to meet with a Burmese family and an Iraqi family living in Clarkston. At the home of the Iraqi family, Adam, one of the Bowdoin students, was able to speak to the family in Arabic and translate for the rest of the group.
During this time in Clarkston a fortuitous event occurred. Among the group from Bowdoin was a student from Mongolia, Delger. While visiting the Burmese family, the volunteers learned that there was a family that had been resettled from Inner Mongolia living just down the street. There were not many families in Clarkston from Inner Mongolia, so the members of this family did not have an opportunity to speak their native language to people outside their family very often. After learning that this family lived nearby, Delger walked over to their house and talked with them.
LSG thanks the students from Bowdoin for traveling all the way from Maine to serve with LSG and to learn more about the experiences of refugees in Atlanta. We hope to see you again next year!