Showing compassion works both ways – World Refugee Day 2018
Akron, Ohio – a refugee teaches her case worker that showing compassion and serving others can work both ways.
Part of my journey began this past December when I began working for World Relief Akron, a refugee resettlement agency where I have been working with newly arrived refugees. That is where I met Kalpana.
Kalpana was one of my first clients who had come from Nepal. Being one of more than 12,000 Nepali speaking refugees in Akron, Ohio, she was one of the very few who possessed a college degree and could read fluently upon arrival. While she didn’t speak much English, it became evident very quickly that she was able to learn. Before long, she was even able to help teach and interpret for other Nepali speaking Bhutanese refugees in Akron. While Kalpana taught me many things, the biggest thing she taught me was compassion. However, it is not the standard definition that might come to mind. In America, it’s often thought that we are to give refugees compassion. Unfortunately, showing compassion can sometimes translate into pity or sympathy.
Kalpana has taught me that showing compassion is about mutual respect and understanding between two people, and being able to provide love and support regardless. It is when we believe that we are in a position of authority by serving others that we lose the humanity of being able to relate to others.
If we only ever go about serving refugees with a mindset of feeling bad about the situations they’ve come from, we’ll never truly be able to serve them and form a mutually beneficial relationship, because we’ll always feel some sense of superiority over them. It is caused by us subconsciously thinking we are better off than they are, and that we don’t need to be served and shown compassion. She has shown me that just because someone is in need of something, that does not mean the other person has more to give or is of more importance.
Although working at World Relief Akron has allowed me to continually experience this, it was Kalpana that truly taught me this. Throughout the entire time she was my client, I always respected her and wanted to do my job to help give her the best life possible here in the United States. However, Kalpana had always wanted to serve me equally and get to know me as a person. From the moment we first talked in English, she would refer to me as “ma’am” out of respect for me. Every time I had gone over to visit her at her home or help her with finances, she always served me by offering me some sort of food and drink. Most of the time it was nuts, granola, or the occasional dish of mushrooms and fish eggs. If we ever went to the park, she bought me ice cream afterwards. Every chance I was given to serve her, she served me. We are equals and we always have been equals.
Kalpana is now one of my dearest friends. She is impeccably supportive and loving in ways that I think many don’t get to experience. We go to the park, sing songs together (she teaches me a few in Nepali and I teach her in English) and go for walks. We talk about America, Nepal, driving, friends, movies, and experiences. We spend time learning from each other and laughing together. While we might not always understand what the other is trying to say in words, we will always understand each other. By showing compassion and love, she has truly changed my heart forever.
Welcome Refugees to Your Community
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World Refugee Day 2018
This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place.
Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day: therefugeecenter.org/world-refugee-day.