During the winter of 2018, Young Adults (YA) carried out a service project at World Relief Seattle. One of the functions of World Relief Seattle is to help refugees from war-torn countries resettle and become self-sufficient within 90 days of their arrival in the United States. Their services range from offering food provisions and finding shelter to helping with English language proficiency and employment placement services.

On January 20, 2018, seven YAs spent two hours sorting, arranging and labeling donations received over the Christmas holidays, a service that would facilitate the agency’s distribution of essentials needed by a large swathe of incoming refugees. The YAs worked in a small storage space cluttered with household items to furnish an apartment - beds, pillows, bedsheets, diapers, kitchen utensils and even plush toys. They split up into teams and, within the span of two hours, turned the cluttered storage space into an organized warehouse with all items neatly stacked and labeled. The agency staff member who took an active role in leading the clean-up process said, "This is the cleanest I've ever seen this space."

The team started the day with an intention to help an organization involved in a noble cause but ended up deeply touched listening to the narratives of refugees' transition to the US. One refugee, formerly a dentist in his country, had to move to the US for his family's safety and worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant so that his family did not have to live under constant threat. The team realized how often they took their own safe and privileged lives for granted! The firm resolve, and determination shown by the refugees, despite facing incredible odds in fleeing their war-torn countries, served a powerful lesson for all. The team felt the least they could do was to pledge and offer their time and physical labor and help make the displaced refugees feel welcome and connected. The young adult team left the site with a great sense of gratitude for the opportunity and eager to come back to volunteer again. 

On 24 February 2018, the YAs undertook a second project with other volunteers at the World Relief Seattle in building a community garden. In partnership with a local church, a paved parking lot space was converted into a vegetable garden. Asphalt and concrete was meticulously dug out of the ground creating rectangular pods which were then filled with rich, fertile soil.  With over 50 rectangular pods, each 176 sq. ft. in area, these micro gardens will allow refugees to plant crops, harvest them and potentially start a business with their cooking skills. The church had kindly donated the use of their commercial kitchen for gardeners to leverage their cooking skills to package and sell ethnic food. The Young Adults felt grateful for picking up skills to set up garden plots and to have been part of this effort to empower the refugee community.

The coordinator of the community garden has provided an update : "The community garden is definitely being used by the refugees! We have people from 19 different countries currently gardening there, and many have harvested crops multiple times already."

* Picture credit : Krissy Kenneally

You have no reason to feel proud when you are able to help another, for your skill or wealth or strength or courage or official position that gave you the chance to serve was the gift of God, whether you recognize it or not. You are only offering this God's gift to another God's gift, namely the poor, the illiterate, the weak, the diseased, the grieving, the broken-hearted, who seek your help.

Sathya Sai Baba