Share the Journey — The importance of a warm welcome

Aida Drazic

“Hello, welcome to Catholic Charities! How may I help you?” 

As Office Manager of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) at Catholic Charities, one of my primary roles is to welcome client visitors at the reception desk. I consider it a blessing that I get to say those words at least 50 times a day!

I have been with MRS for 26 years. I know from personal experience how important a warm welcome is and how essential are the services we provide.

I came to the U.S. in 1997 to escape the war in my home country of Bosnia. I was a client of Catholic Charities. They helped me find my first job and first apartment, and enrolled my child in school. 

I was so scared when I arrived because we didn’t have any family in Louisville, and I wasn’t sure how we would adjust. It was very hard in the beginning. I remember going to the bus stop an hour before the scheduled time just to be sure I didn’t miss it. I was afraid. 

The refugees who arrive here have left their lives behind, oftentimes coming with just the clothes in their backpacks. Many have lived in refugee camps for years without access to water and electricity. 

When they come to us, they want to enroll their children in school, find a job and start their life again. They are so happy when they get their first job and become self-sufficient. It is a big step for them.

The children face major challenges, too. Many don’t speak English and have a hard time with the transition. When they start school, they and their parents are afraid of something as basic as how buses work and if they are safe. When they start at a school that doesn’t use school uniforms, parents are not able to provide clothes that their friends at school have, which makes it hard for both. 

Catholic Charities provides school supplies and school uniforms from our youth program, which really helps them a lot.

I started my career here in childcare, caring for small children while their parents focused on getting accustomed to living in a new country. Eventually, I transitioned to school-age children, where I helped teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and new culture norms to growing youth. I eventually pivoted to an administrative assistant role at the ESL school, which led me to where I am today.

In this role, I am able to build relationships and have interactions with all of our clients on a daily basis. I help them navigate through their various needs and become a pivotal part of their journey of moving to the U.S. One of my favorite parts of the job is when a client and their family remember me from years past, and I get to see how far they have come.

I am very thankful to be a part of this wonderful organization that helped bring my family to the United States years ago. The opportunities we are able to assist people with are truly life-changing, as they are for us, who get to witness them. I am thankful to be able to walk on this journey alongside them and have the privilege of helping families start a new life.  

Please stop by sometime so I can say, “Hello!” to you, too.

Aida Drazic is the office manager for Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

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