By Todd Miller, LCFS Program Coordinator
“Terry is a superstar!” That is how Gary Hobday described, Terry Mulamba, a refugee from the Congo. Gary has been meeting with Terry over the past four weeks as a part of the New American Mentorship Program. Gary goes on about Terry, “This guy is going places. He has a great attitude. . . He and I both play guitar. He writes gospel songs.” Gary is helping Terry to explore how he might move toward a career in the medical field.
The New American Mentorship Program is a new program funded by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), based out of Baltimore. The Lancaster office of Lutheran Children and Family Service, a service of Liberty Lutheran, is the first location for the pilot program. Based its success, LIRS hopes to try the program in other locations in the coming year.
Gary is a semi-retired management consultant. For the past two years he has been serving refugees in the resettlement process together with his congregation, Calvary Church in Lancaster. When he heard about the program from coordinator Ellen Willenbecher, he was sold on the idea immediately, seeing it as a way to help refugees to work on skills related to employment.
Church and community volunteers have long been involved in the resettlement process, but typically they have been involved at the time of resettlement, when the refugees are concentrating on survival, acquiring the necessary documents, going to medical appointments, and enrolling children in school. This program works with refugees who have been in the United States long enough to learn some English and to begin to think about what they want out of life. The program allows them to draw on the wisdom and experience of individuals who have been successful in this country, in order for the refugee to most fully make use of their own skills, experience and passions.
In their first meetings, Gary asked Terry about his experience as an entrepreneur, selling phone cards in the refugee camps. They will then work on translating those experiences into business terms, such as risk management, in order to create a professional resume. Also, in the near future, Gary hopes to introduce Terry to some professionals who work in different areas of the medical profession, so he can clarify which area he wants to get into and what steps he will need to take to move in that direction.
Gary really appreciates that there is a group of mentorship pairs all starting at the same time, and that in addition to meeting one on one with the refugee mentees, there are opportunities to meet as a large group. “Those times together are powerful,” he said. They give the mentors a chance to learn from each other as they go through the process.
Ellen Willenbecher began working with her first 15 mentorship pairs in early June and will continue to meet with the partners regularly for three months. She will also be working to recruit another 15 mentors to be matched with refugee partners in September. Those interested in volunteering as mentors can contact Ellen by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.