I have been involved in volunteering for refugees since I was in third grade, when my school's service club helped out at a refugee sanctuary. Since then, I have been very interested in finding the best and most effective ways to help refugees. I'm a member of my school's refugee volunteer club and have learned a lot of great information and ways to help from it. At the beginning of this year, I decided that I wanted to find more of my own ways to help refugees, specifically through volunteering with larger organizations throughout New York and New Jersey. The first organization that I found was a church-based non-profit in Jersey City. I connected with them through their website and finally got a long-awaited response. I had a meeting with one of the employees and they told me that I would be able to mentor a child from either Syria or Afghanistan. I was greatly looking forward to this opportunity and finding a very meaningful way to help. I couldn't wait to learn more about their experience while helping them create a new home in New York. Unfortunately, after weeks of me eagerly following up but receiving no response from the organization, I was informed that there was nobody available for me to mentor.
I tried to find other ways to volunteer with the organization including setting up housing for newly arrived refugees, but unfortunately, the organization continued to be unresponsive. After this, I felt somewhat disappointed about my experience trying to help, but I still decided to look for another opportunity. Because I am under 18 years old, it is extremely difficult in New York City to find an opportunity to volunteer. I finally found an organization based in Brooklyn that would allow me to work with them. I became very hopeful that, through this organization, I would be able to make a meaningful impact on refugees' lives. Similar to the first organization, this one was not very responsive. I tried for multiple months to contact them via phone and email, even organizing a visit to them, but unfortunately, they continued to be unresponsive.
As this was the second time that this had happened, I was extremely defeated. This is something that I am extremely passionate about, so it was obviously very upsetting to see the small number of opportunities that I had to truly make a difference. I remember during the one phone conversation I had with the representative from the organization in Brooklyn, she expressed how busy she was and how frustrated she was at the lack of help. She said it was a vicious cycle that she was too busy to respond to volunteers, when their help was what she needed to be less busy.
This is one of the reasons that I was interested in starting Students For Refugees. I wanted to find as many organizations and nonprofits as possible to link on my website so that others in a similar position, wanting to help, would be able to find ways to do so. I'm also lucky to have made contact with Ukrainian student Inga Zakrevska, who was able to provide me with an opportunity to help refugees by broadcasting news, stories, and ways to help those who have suffered during the war in Ukraine.