Volunteer Spotlight: Howard Wexler
He has been volunteering for only a few months, but Howard Wexler already has been making an impact on people who really need help – new refugees moving to the United States. Since March, Howard has been helping an Iraqi family make a new life here, through the Refugee Resettlement program of JF&CS’ International Services - Tools for New Americans division. The program consists of volunteers and professionals helping refugees transition to a new culture while maintaining their own.
“I look forward to every Wednesday….the day I usually visit the parents and their three beautiful young daughters. Each week we go over the list of things we have identified that they need or ideas we have developed that will help them make their lives here better.” Among other things, Howard has helped them apply for jobs, use mass transit or, for the parents, get driver’s licenses. “But my favorite is teaching new English words to the young children and seeing their smiles when they understand a new phrase.”
Besides volunteering at JF&CS, Howard helps several other important nonprofits in Atlanta. He is actively involved in the Atlanta Chapter of the Friends of the IDF and the Jewish Educational Loan Fund. He also helps with the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival from June through the festival in February.
“I have really enjoyed working on the boards of several nonprofits, but I wanted to do something where I could directly help a family in need. I had heard so many good things about the work that is accomplished at JF&CS, and after doing a little research, I was sure this would be a great place to help me help others.”
The timing was right when Denise Deitchman, Manager of Volunteer Development, suggested that Howard volunteer for the Refugee Resettlement Program. Now Howard coordinates his efforts through Fariba Kholosi, the Resettlement Coordinator for Tools for New Americans. Fariba thinks it is going very well. “Howard and the family have developed a nice relationship,” Fariba said. “I know the family is very appreciative of Howard’s help, and they are making progress.”
Howard also has taught the family members about American customs and at the same time has learned from his experience with them. He now is a daily drinker of the Iraqi tea the mother served him on his first visit. He also learned a bit more about Atlanta’s mass transit system. “Frankly, I was trying to show the father how to use the MARTA bus, and I hadn’t been on it for years. It was a little bit of the blind leading the blind, but we found our way around eventually.”
One can see from his smile and laugh that Howard is really enjoying helping this family.
For more information on volunteering with the Refugee Resettlement program, please contact 770.677.9448 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.