I used to volunteer to help refugees settling in and adjusting to their new life in the ‘land of the promising’. It may be anything from helping them make a phone call to set up a telephone line, or putting them in touch with a real estate agent, to assisting or advising them in relation to debt issues.
Through my experience, I learnt that many refugees felt anxiety and fear because they did not understand the culture, customs and laws of their new country. Everything was so different for them and it was difficult for them to assimilate to their new environment. In addition, many of the refugees whom I came across had low socioeconomic status and had little education. This led them to feel insecure and lack confidence in their day-to-day life and in turn, place confidence in people whom they began heavily relying upon.
It is unfortunate that some people seek to take advantage of others in order to promote growth for themselves. In the many years that I volunteered my services, 90% of the troubles that refugees came across were related to sales people who signed refugees up on contracts that they did not understand. In fact, in some cases, some refugees were led to believe that they were signing a cancellation, rather than an application for goods and services.
One day, I cried when a young man came to me explaining that he has 8 young dependent children and a US$1000 internet bill which he did not think he owed. He relied on the government for support, earning only US$1500 or so a week which was not enough for him to support his wife and children on food, let alone pay his rent and other bills. He had no computer at home and no understanding of how to use the internet! It transpires that a sales person had signed him up to an internet plan at the same time as him setting up a telephone line with the telecommunications company. He received a modem but had no idea what the black box was – he assumed it was to do with his home phone.
Fortunately, from the paper bill he provided me and the little bit of broken English I gathered from our conversation, I was able to put the puzzle together. I called the telecommunications provider and had his account cancelled and his bill waived, effective immediately. He was greatly appreciative.
Because of these experiences, I learnt that knowledge gives confidence. By passing on my knowledge to those refugees whom I assisted, I helped them build confidence in themselves. I didn’t used to think that there was anything I could offer to help others, but now I realize that no matter how small or trivial something may seem, it may be something that could potentially save a life.
My advice is, share the wealth. Give everything you do all you’ve got and share it because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.