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Staff Spotlight: Jack Bigus

Jack Bigus:  DriverFullSizeRender
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I have been working for WTAP since August of 2008, I volunteered. from 2005-2007
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met hundreds of people and the volunteers have always been the best.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I liked the intimate experience when I volunteer.   I took the job when Carolyn called and asked me if I was interested.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
The smiling and happy faces at a delivery. as a job…it is the best…I feel I make a difference every Thursday afternoon when I choose and pack the furniture for that weekend’s delivery.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I go to the gym, yoga, and I bowl.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
Can’t trick me…if i told you they would no longer be secret!!!!

June 13, 2015

Flag of Somalia.svg  The first family we will visit, a mother and two teenagers, fled the strife in Somalia years ago. On their way to the United States, they spent five years in Yemen and passed through Slovakia, before finally arriving in Arizona this April. Refugees in Yemen were not allowed to have jobs, so they subsisted as well as they could on the informal economy.  The 13-year old son is quite disabled and needs constant care.  The 16-year old daughter is excited about being able to continue her education and, ultimately, to get a job in Arizona.

Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  The next family we will visit is from the Congo. They arrived in the United States in early May. There is an 18 year old young lady and a 56 year old woman who are living together as roommates although they are not from same family. Both of these women were displaced due to the war in the Congo. The 18 year old was sold by her parents in order to get money when she was a young teen. After a few years she escaped her captors and fled to a refugee camp in Kenya where she has lived for the past two years.  The 56 year old woman fled her village along with many family members to try to find safety anywhere they could. The family became divided and were not able to stay together. She found safety with nine other people she did not know. The group was hidden for some time period by some soldiers who kept them safe. The soldiers were able to get this woman to a refugee camp in Tanzania where she has lived for the past seventeen years. She believes she has some family members who have survived and are living in Burundi and Tanzania but she does not know if or when they will be able to join her in the US.

Flag of Somalia.svg   The final family we will visit this week is from Somalia. The family consists of a mother (25), father (27), and three daughters (aged 6, 5 and 1). The young family fled Somalia due to the civil war. The parents have been living in a refugee camp for 22 years. They arrived in the US in early April. The father is a barber by profession but he is interested in taking any work he can get to support his family.

June 6, 2015: Family stories

Flag_of_Myanmar.svgThis Burmese family consists of a male, age 38, his wife, age 33, and their two sons, ages 10 and 4.  The family does not speak English, and the father was not there as he was working in a local furniture factory, and the 10 year old son was in school.  The family arrived in Arizona on 26 February from Thailand where they had lived in a camp.  The mother described the experience there as “very, very difficult”,  especially not being eligible for work permits.  The wife fled Burma when military attacked her village in 1996.  She was separated from her parents during the incident and fled with friends to Thailand.  She was not reunited with her parents until 2003, and she lived with them in a camp until she married her husband in 2005.  They resided in the Thai camp for 10 years. During this time their sons were born.  She proudly showed us certificates displayed on the wall which showed that she completed a nursing assistant course and worked in this field.  Her parents and two younger siblings settled in Arizona prior to her family’s arrival in 2015.  She dreams of going to school and becoming a nurse.  She hopes that her two sons will not only be able  to graduate from college, but also complete a graduate degree.  Currently, she is studying English in an ESL class in her area.

600px-Flag_of_Afghanistan.svgThis Afghanistan family is composed of a male, age 28, his wife, age 21, and their three year old son.  They arrived in Arizona in February after being granted a visa because of his work as a translator for four years.  He speaks good English and is currently employed in a furniture factory but he is a tailor by profession.  He said that he went to Pakistan as a refugee to learn  English and lived there from 1996 to 2006.  He began working on his American visa in July 2012, and it was finally granted to him and his family in December 2014.  His hope is to eventually bring both his and his wife’s family to the States. His wife has worked as a makeup artist in the past, and she is currently learning English through ESL classes.  He said that he came here for a better and safer life for his family, especially his son.

Flag_of_Myanmar.svgThis man is originally from Burma and arrived in the U.S three months ago from a refugee camp in Malaysia, where he stayed for the past four years while waiting to receive his visa. In Burma, his family owned a farm which was taken away from the military by force. His family still resides there so he’s in the U.S alone. He is currently studying English and would like to find a job at a restaurant or a convenience store. He is adjusting well and really loves the freedom of life he has here, especially being able to walk around town freely and sleeping well.

Volunteer Spotlight: Ottilie Yee

IMG_1043-3Ottilie Yee: Graphic Designer, Photographer
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?

I have been volunteering with WTAP since July 2014.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?

I’ve met tons of awesome people through WTAP! From the volunteers to the refugees, it’s eye-opening to meet people from all walks of life. It’s crazy to think that we may have never crossed paths if it were not for WTAP. Several volunteers are now some of my closest friends and I have WTAP to thank for that.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?

I originally volunteered with WTAP to submit a project for the Fulbright Program and was referred to the organization by Kristin Romaine, a former board member. My post-grad life went in a different direction from the Fulbright Program, but I continued on with WTAP regardless of the circumstances because I fell in love with its mission and values and really enjoyed the time spent on deliveries. Now, I am a member of the Communications Committee and the photographer on deliveries.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.  
My favorite part about deliveries is seeing refugees’ reactions to different items we bring in. Fortunately, I’ve been a part of these moments on several occasions. One of my favorite experiences is when a woman received an ironing board and she wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, but she stated, “I have home now.” I’ll never forget that huge smile! It’s hard forming the right words to describe some of the emotions evoked when a refugee receives something that we often take for granted, such as an ironing board or a family photo; you can tell by their faces that this simple gesture means the world to them, and when their happiness radiates from them, that’s how I know I’m making a difference.
 
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
When I’m not volunteering, I work as a social media guru/web designer/graphic designer for online craft and party supply store, Two Berry Creative. I also love baking, reading and planning my next travel adventure.
 
What secret powers or talents do you have?
I’m obsessed with typography so sometimes I will randomly point out different fonts on signs, menus, etc. I’m also really good at crafting and not creating Pinterest fails!