This is a story of success and hope, told by one of our staff members at the TRM youth program.

*Names have been changed to protect guest’s identity

“One of my most rewarding experiences, I had recently with one of our students, *Ruby. She comes from a large family and is from one of our refugee families. She speaks Portuguese and is currently working on learning English. Because of the language barrier, it has not always been easy to communicate and connect with her. She is headstrong, stands up for herself and her friends and family, loves all things glamorous and does well in one-on-one situations with staff.

This month, we had a field trip where we took all the elementary children to a wave pool. Most of the kids from our group of refugees had never been swimming before and were unable to pass the swim test, although not for lack of trying. Because of this, the children had to always be within arms reach of an adult, and Ruby was my partner for the day. She started out very hesitant and clung to me fairly tight. However, she was determined to learn. I encouraged her to use her arms and kick her legs and repeated several times, “You’re okay.”

I felt that she trusted me and I was there to keep her safe. It was awesome to see her gaining confidence every time she was able to swim for longer periods without my help, and her smile was contagious. By the end of the whole thing, she was a pro, able to float on her back with no problem and enjoy the waves no matter how big. Even when she wanted to do it on her own, I would notice her reach out her hand to me periodically, just to make sure I was still close by.

It was an amazing bonding experience, and now we have a closer relationship. That’s the importance of what we do here at the youth program. We make connections and help the kids to experience new things, learn and thrive despite their current situation. And to be completely honest, it feels pretty good.”

Story provided by a staff member at the Tacoma Rescue Mission youth program.