Monday, May 4, 2009

Student Reflection: Trust Me, I Can Help You

by Sarah Moauro

For a class project in SPAN 332, I had to write up an informational “module” on trust between volunteers and the clients or students they work with while volunteering. In doing so, I had to spend a lot of time reflecting on my own experiences while working at the Refugee Center. Although I incorporated this into my project, I was only able to do so in very general terms, not elaborating much on details. Now that the project is nearly complete, I feel that sharing my portion in a little more personal, a little less instructional form here gives it a finishing touch.

During my few months at the Refugee Center, I’ve have many interactions in which I felt trust to be an issue to some degree. For the most part, they were simple things that would frustrate me. Quite a few times, a Spanish-speaking client would call, ask for Guadalupe, the bilingual counselor, and when I would tell them she was out at lunch and ask if I could take a message or help them with anything, they would say no. I could tell that they were reluctant to talk to me because I was not a familiar voice or because they could tell from my accent that my Spanish was not my first language. I would understand having apprehensions toward talking to someone you don’t know; I would understand being uncomfortable trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t fluently speak your language. But not trusting me enough to give me your name and number for me to pass on to Guadalupe in a few hours? That I wouldn’t understand.

Although their reluctance was what would frustrate me, the only thing I could do was change what I was doing. In response, I would try to sound more confident in my speech, have more specific information to give them, and to come off as, besides a language barrier, someone that they could trust with their message rather than attempting to call back multiple times. This is how I felt most issues of trust happened, and the general way in which I approached the situations. Over the course of the semester, I the rejection to messages became much less to the point of being almost non-existent and more conversational phone calls became the norm. It’s not that my Spanish had morphed into perfection over these months. It was because I was persistent in my demeanor, becoming if nothing else a familiar voice that gets messages where they need to go. To gain trust you don’t have to undergo miraculous transformations or put forth outstanding efforts – you just have to keep trying each and everyday to slowly prove your worthiness of their confidence, regardless of how simple the responsibility.

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