Written by Jen Marcuson, Exodus board member and volunteer
I had been on the board with Exodus for about two years when my husband and I decided to volunteer to mentor a family. Sitting on the board is a very rewarding experience, but I wanted to have another connection to the refugee community on a more personal level. After completing the orientation and training, we were matched with a family from Syria in February of 2017.
At the time we met them, they had only been in the US for two months. We set up a time with Exodus' volunteer coordinator and an Arabic translator and went over to their apartment for what we expected would be a formal, one-hour meeting to get acquainted and set up how our visits would be structured going forward. I was a little nervous about meeting them, but I had a trusty notebook and I was planning on walking out with information about what their goals were for this partnership: perhaps a schedule for getting library cards, practicing English, or assisting the kids with homework translation.
It was nothing like that: we emerged from that first meeting over three hours later, stuffed with a four-course meal of delicious middle eastern food, several new Arabic words, and new friends. Each subsequent meeting has been the same - always full of food and conversation, cobbled together with the help of online translators, exaggerated gesturing, and a lot of laughs. I've learned that I love mahshi and stuffed grape leaves and that the universal language among all children is video games and Doritos. We've baked an all-American apple pie together and my husband and step-son have played pick-up soccer with their kids in the yard.
We see our Syrian friends every other week or so for a few hours and we hope to be able to show them more of Indianapolis in the summer. After only our second visit my new friend said to me, "When I learn English, we will be friends, we will be sisters".
I told her we already were.
Exodus is currently in the Engaged Eight round of Brackets for Good. Help them make it to the Philanthropic Four by donating here!