I first came across Exodus on a google search when I moved to Indiana nearly 13 years ago. It might have been yahoo back then. In any case, I started with an email inquiry to find out how I could join the effort. I was raised in a philanthropic household with my mother as a role model; she was (and is) always looking for ways to uplift people in need. And I also grew up in an immigrant community of friends and family, some of whom were once “refugees.” So I suppose I was naturally drawn to Exodus because of its powerful mission – helping vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution build a new future.
After my husband and I completed our volunteer training, we matched as mentors to a newly resettled family. During introductions, we met the family in their apartment and spent time nodding and smiling across the room at each other – enjoying each other’s company but with little to say. Coordination of future visits was complicated because of language and communication barriers. We also stumbled through figuring out exactly how to be helpful. Family mentorship was rewarding but also very challenging.
As a Muslim, my faith has been a guiding light behind my desire to serve others. Amidst Ramadan and a global pandemic, I am thankful for the opportunity to hit reset on what matters most in life. Faith, family and service overwhelmingly jump to the top of my list. In spiritual reflection, I am reminded that love, mercy and harmony alongside actions of social justice are attributes that exemplify excellence in Islam.
I walked away from the experience with a deepened respect for refugees. They showed patience, resilience and eagerness during a transformative period in their lives. I was also highly impressed with the organization itself. Exodus has a compassionate, skilled and organized way of helping smooth out the bumps that clients encounter. It also serves as a leading advocate for welcoming refugees to Indiana – whether through community panels, meetings with officials or litigation. Over the years, I have continued to feel a strong pull to this important work.
As a Muslim, my faith has been a guiding light behind my desire to serve others. Amidst Ramadan and a global pandemic, I am thankful for the opportunity to hit reset on what matters most in life. Faith, family and service overwhelmingly jump to the top of my list. In spiritual reflection, I am reminded that love, mercy and harmony alongside actions of social justice are attributes that exemplify excellence in Islam. This frame of mind underlies my support for Exodus. A community of people driven to show affection and kindness in the most outstanding manner possible. Compassionate helpers who are the first face to greet tired and timid refugees when they first step foot in the U.S. Thoughtful neighbors who welcome newcomers by setting up an apartment and providing a warm meal. And fierce advocates for social justice when the door seems to be closing on the voiceless and oppressed.
Exodus is a special and uniquely qualified leader in the realm of humanitarian work. Which is why I am deeply honored to serve as the Vice President of the Board. This Ramadan is a special one where social distancing means creative ways of staying connected. But it also allows for thoughtful reflection on how to achieve excellence through service and charity. I choose Exodus as one of my most important commitments, and I invite you to join me too.
This Ramadan, you can support Exodus by making a financial gift to continue to support our important work of serving the most vulnerable. You can donate here.
This blog post was written by Afshan Paarlberg, Vice President of Exodus’ Board of Directors.