Alonso Cortez writes…
As a child back in Central Mexico, I never dreamed of moving to the United States and experience the American culture. At the time, I did not even know that there were so many different cultures besides my own. After the move, I started to be introduced to multiple cultures for which the United States is known. As time passed, I learned to be part of the culture and sometimes to even embrace it. Still, I never thought that my experience as an immigrant would help me so much in the SMI program.
When I decided to apply to the SMI program I did not know that I was going to be working with people from so many different cultural backgrounds. I remember reading the brochure for the first time and the only word that got stuck in my mind was “refugee”. The fact of living and working with refugees never crossed my mind. So far, I am glad I did not let that word hold me back from applying to the program.
Throughout the program, I have discovered that my own experience as an immigrant has really helped me out to understand the refuge community. It is the most helpful when I go out to interview refugees for our Asset-Based Community Assessment. I think my experience has helped me ask the right questions at the right time. As the interviewer, it is hard to decide when to expand a question or when to move on. Knowing some of the most delicate issues, I can recognize when it is okay to ask more questions or ask for clarification. In many different ways, my background as an immigrant has worked miracles for me and the people I have interviewed.
After hearing so many stories, I am still amazed by the several struggles that the refugees have had to go through in order to make it all the way to the United States. I think one of the things that has impacted me the most is the fact that a lot of the refugees have already spent multiple years in other countries besides the States. It is still amazing for me to know that they have been introduced to multiple cultures one of them being the American culture. This is surprising for me because I still remember how hard it was at the beginning to be immersed in a culture in which you are the minority and the outsider.
My interaction with the refugees in the Highlands and at Siloam has changed the way I look at my past experiences. I have come to appreciate them so much more just because of the fact that they have helped me grow personally and spiritually. Most of the growth has come in the form of appreciation for other cultures and the knowledge that even though people can have different backgrounds we can still share the love of God amongst all of us.