The First Meeting
A World Relief representative will attend the first meeting between you and the refugee you will be working with as a volunteer. The following is a suggested outline for your first meeting, which should last approximately one hour.
Just prior to your meeting, review any information you may have about the refugee.
At the beginning of your meeting, introduce yourself and get to know each other by asking questions or discussing some information about yourself or your family and that of your refugee friend. Be sure to ask him to pronounce his name for you and practice repeating it several times until you can say it correctly. Remember that awkward moments and silence are a normal part of the first meeting. As time goes on, these periods of silence will decrease.
Helpful Hint: Since conversation can be slow in the beginning, check out “Conversation Starters” for a few sample open-ended questions you might use to get the discussion moving. Bring along pictures of your family members. You can also bring an atlas or map so your refugee partner can show you his homeland. You may wish to show the country from which you or your ancestors came to America. This would demonstrate that you, too, have roots in another place.
During your meeting, suggest ideas for activities that you and your refugee friend might do together:
• “Would you like to meet with me to practice your English?”
• “Would you be interested in…?”
• “Have you ever been to the…?”
• “Would you like to see…?”
At the end of your meeting, discuss when and where you want to meet next. Record this information.
Before leaving, make sure that your refugee friend understands how to reach you by phone. Also, clearly state your understanding of when you will meet next.
For example: “I will come to visit you here at your apartment next Saturday at 10:00 in the morning. You will be there to meet me, won’t you?” (Look for a positive sign, word, or facial expression to indicate to you that they understood the next meeting time and plan to be there on time.)
Here are a few questions which can be used to stimulate conversation. Asking open-ended questions, rather than simple “yes” or “no” questions, will allow a refugee to share more information.
- How many people are in your family? Tell me about them.
- Ask to see pictures, if they are available. Share pictures of your own family.
- What did you first see or hear when you first came to the United States?
- What do you notice about the United States that is different from your country?
- How do you like the weather we are having? What is the weather like in your country?
- What kind of music do you like?
- Do you like to play/watch sports? Which sports? Who is your favorite team?
- How do people greet one another in your country?
- What are your favorite foods? What are they made of? How are they prepared? When are they eaten?
- What American foods have you tried? What American foods do you like?
- Are there any foods that your religion or culture prohibits you from eating?
Please Note: Only after you have been meeting for some time and after you have developed a relationship with a refugee are the following questions appropriate to ask:
- Why did you decide to leave your country? How did you leave?
- Do you ever want to return to your country again?
- Is there anything you do not understand or like about the United States?
- What is your religious background?
- What are your plans and dreams for the future?