Supporter Stories: Grant and Hayley (2/2)

Grant: We get to run our own program, we write our own curriculum…I think I’m a better English teacher now than when I started. It’s just fun.

With English classes we get a constant influx of people, we usually get the newest people, so it changes a lot. A lot of times they are very nervous when they show up and I think it’s fun because it’s not a very intensive classroom environment so it’s fun to see people open up and feel comfortable. You become aware that they are just people so you talk to them like you would other people, as long as you have the language skills to do so. You quickly forget about refugee status or anything like that and just talk about who’s good at English, who is not so much, who talks in class, who has cute kids. Stuff like that, same kind of stuff you’d talk about with coworkers.

Hayley: Teaching. It’s reaffirmed that there are kinds of universal communication that works with everybody. Like smiling and laughing and being kind of goofy when teaching class. I first tried that out in China with little kids and it turns out it works just as well in Montana with people from the Congo, or Eritrea or Iraq or Syria. There is a kind of basis of human communication that pretty much works wherever you are. It’s definitely helped me develop that skill-set; to feel like no matter where I am, or no matter how much language I share in common with someone, I can communicate with them.

Photos and interview by Elliott Natz

Supporter Stories: Grant and Hayley (1/2)

Grant: I never really thought about (joining Soft Landing) too much. When I learned about that we were getting refugees and that I could do something it was kind of a no brainer. It seems obvious to me that you should help refugees, they seem like the kind of people who need help. It seems like a tough situation to be in and if there is something you can do, you should do it.

Hayley: (I wanted to help because) watching the news and seeing the human suffering that’s going on in various places in the world because of war or famine or oppression, and realizing that if I was born in a different place or time that could be me. And I have the ability to try and reach out and help, and with that ability comes a little bit of an obligation to do what you can, where you can.

Grant Parker is an Education Masters student at UM and Hayley Wright is an RN at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. Both are IRC Mentors and English Language Learner teachers at Soft Landing Missoula.

Interview and photo by Elliott Natz

Supporter Stories: Liz Colantuono

“(Working with refugees), it intrigued me and I found it interesting and it was always in the back of my mind… so when Mary Poole and I bumped into each other, we first became reacquainted. It was the kind of conversation where I asked her what are you up to, what are you doing. She told me about starting Soft Landing. I told her I was really interested in getting involved and helping her out with that project because I felt it to be a worthwhile way to help the stranger at our door.” – Liz Colantuono, Mentor Leader at IRC

Photos and Interview by Elliott Natz

Supporter Stories: Mike Stark (2/2)

“They sounded like people that were in need, really. It seemed like a much better situation having people help these families that were moving into our community rather than not and just having these families fend for themselves. I just wanted to try and be part of that process. I didn’t really think about it too much. I just kinda read about it and jumped into it. That’s just kind of how I do things.” – Mike Stark

Photos and interview by @elliott_natz.

See first post.

Supporter Stories: Mike Stark (1/2)

“(Working with the family), it made some of the difficulties and hardships that these families are going through, whether they are here or in Europe or Africa, wherever they are, very real and very tangible. A lot of times when I think of a refugee or read a story in the newspaper, or see something on television about these people, migrants or refugees, whether their boat is capsizing while crossing the Mediterranean, or any of them dying, or they are stuck in a refugee camp for ten years, I have a concept of what that struggle is like and I can sympathize with it. But it’s not realistic. So helping these people in their day to day lives, whether it’s giving them a ride to church, or sitting down with them for a cup of coffee or whatever it is, it’s so normal that it’s… that normalcy is very impactful in a way. 

“It really drives it home because they are real people and they have real needs. It’s not that they are in immediate danger, but they have lives, dreams, and wishes, whether its helping them find a job or get to the dentist, whatever it is.” 

– Mike Stark, Investment Advisor at S.G. Long in Missoula, Montana, and Mentor Leader at IRC

Photo and interview by @elliott_natz.

For the next 12 weeks I will be posting images alongside portions of interviews I’ve conducted. The subjects of the photos are volunteers involved in groups helping refugees from around the world find a safe and fulfilling life in Missoula, MT. This project aims to show how involved our community is in creating a welcoming city, and how the lives of volunteers and community members have been positively impacted by inviting diverse new neighbors into our lives.

Please join us to get to know some of the people in Missoula that are helping make the lives of new people to our community a little easier.