Many people are looking for ways to lend a hand to refugees. One of our newest volunteers has found a great way to pair her skills and expertise with a fulfilling volunteer role at Jewish Family Service.
Mireille Azzam moved to Denver from Lebanon nearly seven years ago and is fluent in Arabic, English, and French. She works as a contract medical and community interpreter in Denver. Through her work, she meets a lot of refugees. Many mention that they worry constantly and feel a lot of stress.
This led her to seek out a volunteer opportunity with refugees that utilized her skills as an interpreter. She explains, “I wanted to help refugees in any way I could. While I was not a refugee myself, I know how difficult it is to move to another country and especially to communicate when there is a language barrier.”
She continues, “I did an online search for volunteer opportunities and contacted JFS.” She met with Nancy Benyamin, director of Volunteer Services, who told her about an Iraqi Women’s Wellness Group our Refugee Mental Health (RMH) department was conducting. Mireille thought it sounded perfect! She served as a backup interpreter, helped with activities, and got to know the participants during the eight-week group.
Kelli Hayes, RMH administrative assistant and co-facilitator of the wellness group, says, “Mireille was able to connect immediately with group members. She has a warm and gentle spirit and was able to clearly communicate with volunteers and participants. What was so wonderful about Mireille is that she has deep cultural knowledge and her desire to serve clients through quality interpretation is genuine.”
Mireille enjoyed that experience so much, she wanted to explore other opportunities within JFS and found several ways to get involved! She volunteers, as needed, in the Refugee Mental Health department, mainly as an Arabic interpreter. She does some translating and interpreting in French, as well.
In December, she helped sort toy donations for the Bright Holidays program and helped two Arabic-speaking families choose toys for their children before the holidays. In January, she still wanted to do more for JFS clients, so she started helping in the food pantry once a month on Wednesdays. She helps people shop and interprets for Arabic-speaking clients.
“Even though it’s not often portrayed in the media, there are always good people who want to help others no matter what,” Mireille says passionately. “In my experience, people are always there for each other, no matter their backgrounds, religions, or skin color. I want to keep volunteering with JFS as much as possible and find other ways to help. I just want to give back in any way I can. I’m not looking for anything in return.”
If you are inspired to make an immediate and positive impact on your community, check out the five ways you can assist our refugee clients!