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Volunteer Spotlight: Marissa Renaldi

Meet Marissa Renaldi. Marissa has been a youth mentor since 2020, and she has been a great friend and mentor to her mentee. We are grateful for volunteers like her who provide support for our teens.

1. Why did you decide to volunteer at Exodus and become a youth mentor?

I was a member of IndyHub’s 1828 Leadership Project in 2020. One of the panel discussions was centered on immigration policies and the challenges refugees face when relocating to Indianapolis. Sara Hindi shared about the amazing work Exodus Refugee does and the youth mentorship program. I remember feeling like a fire had been lit inside of me and knew I had to sign up.

2. What has the experience been like for you?

While the pandemic caused the program to pivot, it was still an incredible and worthwhile experience. Since my mentee and I could only interact over Zoom in the beginning, it made the moments we could be together in person much more precious. Mentorship is something I have always been drawn to, so this was the perfect way to fulfill that passion while simultaneously helping support Exodus.

3. What has been your favorite moment?

By far, the best moment was getting to take my mentee to one of the March Madness games. She loves watching basketball on TV, but had never been to a game before! She had so much fun taking pictures at the stadium, watching the game, and trying new foods. This was the first time we could hang out outside of her yard or Zoom, so it was a very special evening for both of us. I look forward to doing more things like this with her, especially as the weather warms up and the pandemic improves.

4. What has this volunteer experience taught you?

My mentee and her family have taught me to always be kind. Despite the hardships they have faced, they’ve always been so kind and welcoming to me.

5.What do you wish people knew about refugees?

I wish people understood that while, yes, they are refugees, that is not what defines them. For example, my mentee is defined by her love for fashion, sense of humor, desire to be a nurse, and infectious smile. I believe people overlook the fact that refugees are simply people.