WRD volunteers will have the opportunity to experience many different cultures. While the languages and mannerisms that volunteers have may be different from those of their refugee partners, volunteers will be the most successful if they develop certain attitudes:

  • Willingness to Suspend Judgment

    • Refugees may do or say something that seems strange; don’t immediately jump to conclusions or makes judgments. Keep an open mind and remember that every culture makes sense to the people living in it.

  • Willingness to Learn

    • Ask questions and listen to the answers. Take time to learn about refugees’ cultures.

  • Sense of Humor

    • Volunteers should be willing to laugh off embarrassing, confusing, or annoying moments as everyone works to understand each other.

  • Focus on Relationship

    • Since volunteers wish to see their partners thriving socially and economically, relationships must be the foundation of their work. Building relationships with healthy boundaries will benefit both the volunteer and partner.

  • Willingness to Take Risks and Fail

    • Don’t be afraid to reach out to a partner in a new way.

  • Willingness to Share Yourself

    • Volunteers should be willing to be open and honest in relationships. Each volunteer has special gifts and experiences to share with partners

  • Do Not Abuse A Felt Position of Power

    • Refugees are in a very vulnerable situation where they may not have any support in the US. Volunteers should not make a partner feel any pressure to engage in certain activities or conversations that they do not want to take part in.

Take a look at the below infographic for a visual of the cultural gaps that need to be bridged when working with refugees.

*For information on overcoming barriers and adjustment to the U.S., reference the Overcoming Barriers Toolkit.

[Parts adapted from World Relief Minnesota, now called Arrive Ministries