Photo courtesy of Sophiya Dulal

IVEPer Sophiya Dulal from Nepal, lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri

My IVEP placement is in Kansas City, Missouri, in the refugee resettlement organization called Della Lamb community service. I serve as an assistant case worker for refugees. My work is to write case notes, provide refugee cash assistance, help apply for food stamps, social security and employment. Basically, I walk refugees from the process of being dependent on the organization to independence. When refugees come to the United States they come empty handed but full of expectation. They think that the organization will shower them with everything. They are not fully aware of the reality that we are just here to create that foundation for them to be able to stand on their own feet. When they find out that the reality is totally different than their expectation there is chance that they’ll feel frustrated and angry. So, it’s our job to make them understand about the facilities that we provide and make them realize that no one will serve everything on their plate. They need to hustle to live their life and meet their expectations. And I’m so glad that I have this opportunity to serve them and enlighten them about everything. I feel so proud when I can avoid the conflict and create that peaceful environment in between refugee and organization. I am not just volunteering there. I am building peace.

I am blessed with an awesome work placement and coworkers. They are like a family to me. They understand that I come from a different country and sometimes my knowledge is very limited to understand about my work and in general. So, they help me to gain that knowledge and are very patient with me. But even if you are surrounded by amazing people there will be times that you feel hopeless and face a lot of difficulties. I had that hard time. But I found my motivation to keep going and be happy. On my way to work I always see one homeless man with a cardboard sign held up that says, “I’m hungry give me some food,” which always brings tears to my eyes. But I found my motivation through him because despite having the worst conditions he always has that smile on his face and always waves to everyone with the biggest smile. I compared my reality with his reality and found myself very small. On one hand there is me who complains about things and never gets satisfied with what I have, and on the other hand there is this homeless man who is so happy and smiling despite having the hardest life. That man became my motivation to keep moving and accept everything with a smile on my face.

During this IVEP year I got to live with a host family and be part of a Mennonite church. My host family is my greatest support system. Though we have a different culture, food, values and behaviour, they are always ready to learn my culture and help me to learn their culture. From taking me to different places, eating happily whatever I cook, helping me to build new relationships in the States, they have been so selfless, people who care about me and love me truly.

The IVEP program has become such an eye-opening moment of my life, which I cherish so much. This program gave me an opportunity to meet people from all over the world with whom I share my story, listen to their story, and get inspired. I’m so thankful to serve in United States and learn the culture. I am blessed and proud to call myself an IVEPer.