By Deacon Lucio Caruso
It has been amazing to witness the relationship between two individuals from two totally different cultures and parts of the world, grow and blossom in a way that has been a blessing for each. And it has been a pleasure for me to hear firsthand about the positive difference this has made in both of their lives.
Roaa Al Asaad is a 14-year old native of Syria. She lived in Jordan before arriving in the United STates in June of 2016 with her mother and five siblings. Shortly thereafter, she became a mentee in our Catholic Charities New Horizons Youth Mentoring Program.
At the same time, a woman named Andrea Mattingly was ready to be Roaa’s mentor. Andrea told me that her family has been working with Catholic Charities for many years now and she has a passion for helping immigrants and refugees. Andrea felt ready to form a one-on-one relationship with a refugee and hopefully make even the smallest impact in his or her life. The Youth Mentoring program here at Catholic Charities was a perfect fit for her and she was matched with Roaa.
Andrea described how the first few weeks of bonding with her new mentee was a little tough. Roaa was shy at first and the two spent most of their first days on Google Translate, struggling with the language barrier. As the weeks progressed, Roaa began to open up to Andrea. She showed Andrea pictures of her family and friends who lived in Jordan and Syria. Roaa’s family often invited Andrea to eat a delicious traditional Syrian dinner with them, shared cups of Syrian tea, and even celebrated Ramadan together.
Along with having an American friend to come over and talk to about home, Roaa expressed to me how much the visits have helped with improving her English and her grades in school. She is very appreciative to have Andrea in her life as she learns the American culture and becomes comfortable with life in a new country. I, myself, cannot imagine such a transition without a companion in a new culture.
For Andrea, being a mentor is much more than helping with homework. She explained to me how this experience has opened her eyes to the beautiful life Syrians live, how their families are at the heart of their lives, and that they never miss out on a moment of being together. She feels so honored they opened their doors to her and included her in their special family.
Roaa and Andrea embody and teach us one of the core principles of Catholic social teaching, solidarity; that we are all sisters and brothers of one God, and members of one human family, whatever our national, ethnic, racial, economic, or religious differences.
I really urge you to consider becoming a volunteer mentor. You will not only have a life impact on another, but your own life will be forever impacted! Our New Horizons Youth Mentoring Program is currently seeking adult mentors, like Andrea, to be matched with a mentee like Roaa. For more information contact me at email@example.com or Alix Davidson Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deacon Lucio Caruso is assigned at Epiphany Church and serves as the director of mission integration at Catholic Charities of Louisville.