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The Slice: They want every refugee in Spokane to have an American friend

Here’s a report on my brief internship at World Relief Spokane, the refugee resettlement agency.

Director Mark Finney outlined the organization’s mission and then gave me a tour of the no-frills warren of offices on North Washington Street.

World Relief, funded by church and government grants as well as private donations, helps families and individuals displaced by war and religious persecution start a new life. The Spokane office has resettled 10,000 refugees since 1992, according to the agency.

I was impressed with those I met and applaud their efforts to live up to their motto, “Stand/For the Vulnerable.”

So I assigned myself the job of producing a news release, borrowing heavily from existing World Relief materials. Here it is.

If you have ever wondered what you could do to make a refugee from some war-torn corner of the world feel welcome in Spokane, here’s one answer.

You could become that person’s friend.

World Relief Spokane is looking for volunteers who can help newcomers to America learn how to navigate life here.

All you need is two to four hours per week, for six months, and a willingness to tackle tasks such as driving someone to appointments or explaining why we do things the way we do here in the United States.

Here’s how to get started.

Fill out an application online at worldreliefspokane.org/application.

You will be sent an invitation to sign up for the next volunteer training session.

Complete the required background check.

The Volunteer Coordinator will work to place you in a role that fits your interests and availability.

World Relief Spokane has specialists who assist refugees with resettlement issues such as housing, employment, access to medical care and immigration legalities. But sometimes what a newcomer needs is a friend who can explain how bus transfers work or offer suggestions about grocery shopping.

If you have demonstrated your competence at coping with American life, maybe that can be you.

Volunteers may be placed in one-to-one cultural companionship pairings or in a group designated to work with a single mom or even handed a special assignment such as teaching a refugee to drive.

“There is a need for people who can do what a friend does,” said one World Relief staffer.

And something a friend might do is say, in countless different ways and through many small acts of kindness, “Welcome to Spokane.”

TODAY’S SLICE QUESTION: What would you say to someone who grumbles about diversity?

Write The Slice at P. O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. Coming Saturday: Ten pounds of readers’ submissions in a 5-pound bag.