In our Volunteer Spotlight series, we catch up with cherished IINE volunteers to hear more about their passion and experiences. Our latest edition features Phoebe Park, a recent college graduate who has been tutoring the children of a refugee family in Boston.
Phoebe shared how her academic interests and personal background led her to IINE, what she has learned about being an effective volunteer, and how this experience has deepened her community ties. Read on to discover what Phoebe had to say…
IINE: What drew you to volunteer with IINE?
Phoebe: I have always been passionate about volunteering as a way to give back and get involved, and I enjoy using the privileges and opportunities I have been given to help others. I’m also a people person; I enjoy interacting with others!
Phoebe with the two younger children she tutors in English (and enjoys snacks with!)
I came to IINE specifically for two reasons. First, I studied government and political science in college, which included looking at refugee movements. So, immigration and resettlement were academic areas of interest for me. When I heard about IINE through a friend who interned at your organization, I became excited about the opportunity to gain hands-on experience—not just learning about refugee movements, but seeing them in the community around me and being able to help—that was fascinating to me.
Second, I grew up in an immigrant household in Texas and can speak multiple languages, including Korean, which we spoke at home, and Spanish, which was my major in college. I felt like volunteering with IINE would be an opportunity to draw on my own specific perspective and skills.
IINE: What kind of volunteer work do you do?
Phoebe: For the past month, I have been volunteering with a refugee family in Boston a few times a week. There are four children. I help the older two, who are in school, with their homework, and I tutor the younger two in English. I also help the mom with English.
I work as an analyst at a clinical trials recruitment company, so this volunteer work is completely different from how I spend most of my day. It allows me to fulfill my passion for helping others.
IINE: What has been the most impactful aspect of volunteering?
Phoebe: I’m sure a lot of volunteers would say this: even if English isn’t their first language, the gratitude and the love that the family members give me are so tangible. I might not be able to have in-depth English conversations with the mom at this stage, but every time she invites me to join them for dinner or packs a Tupperware of snacks for me to take home, I feel the strength of our connection.
I have told so many of my friends about volunteering with IINE! I want others to have this same experience.
IINE: Speaking of, is there any advice you would share with people who might be considering volunteering with IINE?
Phoebe: I think open-mindedness is really important. For example, I originally signed up to tutor the kids – that was how the volunteer opportunity was listed. But then, one day, I was at the family’s house, tutoring the kids, and I noticed that there seemed to be a language barrier between the mom and a maintenance worker who was fixing their fridge. They were communicating in English, but it wasn’t either of their first language. I realized that the maintenance worker was Korean, so I was able to translate what he was saying into English for the mom. It wasn’t an experience I signed up for, but having an open mind helped. Now I always try to notice and adapt to the current needs of the family – whether it’s tutoring the children or just spending time with them to improve their social skills.
IINE: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Phoebe: I would share that Boston has a high immigrant population; immigrants are all around us. Reaching out into your community and helping is so rewarding. These are people that are a part of your city.