Teens stopped by ORAM’s booth at Urban High’s volunteer fair on December 4 to talk to staff about volunteer opportunities.
Later in the day, Ali Khoie and Peter Altman spoke to students and staff before the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
ORAM was one of 19 organizations that came out to introduce juniors and seniors to volunteer opportunities available to them to fulfill their community service graduation requirement at the Urban School of San Francisco’s Community Partner Fair, said Amy Argenal, one of the service learning teachers who organized the fair at Urban High.
“It is important for our students to learn about the situation of refugees and refugees that are even marginalized as they flee,” said Amy. “ORAM’s work to support these communities is very important for our students to hear about, especially now as there is so much anti-immigration rhetoric in our country.”
Aware of refugee issues from the news, the students were interested in knowing how they could help LGBTI refugees through volunteer opportunities.
The students spoke with Ali about his experience escaping Iran and his work at ORAM while Peter spoke about the different types of volunteer opportunities available at the organization and how it could help them fulfill their community service while helping refugees.
ORAM collected the information of more than two dozen students who signed up to help with the organization’s administration, communications, events, fundraising, outreach and speaking engagements projects.
“I’m really excited by the students’ eagerness to work with ORAM,” said Peter. “We hope students at other high schools and colleges will be just as eager to engage on the same level.”
Following the fair, Ali and Khoie spoke at the school’s GSA where LGBT and ally students and teachers were able to get a more intimate understanding of LGBTI refugee issues. They also learned about ORAM’s work training refugee workers at the U.N., governments, and civil service organizations on the ground, LGBTI refugees and local queer organizations in Turkey, and its network of organizations in the U.S. to resettle newly arrived LGBTI refugees.
The students and teachers were inquisitive and expressed gratitude to Ali for sharing his personal story as a gay Iranian refugee and to Peter for telling them about ORAM’s important work.
“The students really appreciated hearing a personal narrative,” said Amy. “I think we often just think with our ‘head’ and hearing someone’s own story helps us connect to them on a personal level. It allows us to build compassion and I think the students really appreciated this.”