I have been fortunate enough to travel internationally. I’ve been to Laos, in the middle of nowhere with one paved road, and the rest dirt roads that off shoot. There are tiny villages everywhere. Not being able to speak the language makes it hard to get anything done, and having someone who is willing to take me under their wing really helps. Someone to show me around, to introduce me to their friends, and to introduce me to the community. This type of help is invaluable. I could not imagine transplanting myself from my home to a foreign land, which is exactly what these folks are doing. Even more so, the refugees here need help not just to go to the store and meet people in the community, they need help to make a new life for themselves.
I used to manage a bunch of retail stores, and have experience with hiring. I'm glad this experience translates over to helping these new-comers find a job. If you’ve never been to a professional job interview, it can be intimidating. I’ve had several interviews and conducted more, so i’ve got a little insight on how to not make it so nerve wracking for those people trying to enter the workforce.
With refugees specifically, I was really looking forward to helping them with work, helping them find jobs to support themselves and integrate themselves into the community. But, of course it’s more than that, it’s bringing people to doctor’s appointments, taking them to English classes, and teaching them how to ride the bus. I'm incredibly grateful to be a volunteer and have this experience.
Ryan Nicodemus is a mentor through the IRC and a volunteer at Soft Landing Missoula
Photo and interview by Elliott Natz