Volunteer Spotlight: Grace Korthuis

HRI often receives unexpected support from strangers across the country. A word of kindness from a bookstore; a portion of bar sales at a restaurant; a virtual pat on the back from a student – We can tell you this much: as our staff and community stand strong everyday to face some of the hardest fights we have seen in recent years, these heartfelt reminders of support turn even the toughest days into the sweetest ones.

Grace Korthuis, a high school senior at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, WA. contacted us recently. She had decided to host a fundraising event for HRI as part of her culminating senior year project. Grace’s humanity truly touched us. It reminded us how no action is too small nor a step is too insignificant. Grace’s willingness to help created advocacy, engagement, and funds that will go directly to vulnerable refugees and immigrants, in a city faraway. Thank you, Grace.

Would you like to help? We have a special 4th of July Campaign in progress now. Take a look. Or simply text HRI4TH to 44-321 to immediately show support.

And now, meet Grace:

Grace Korthuis

How did you first hear about HRI?

I first heard about the HRI by conducting online research of nonprofit charities that help immigrants and refugees around the world.

What is your driving force in volunteering with our agency?

My driving force in fundraising for the HRI is to be able to help immigrants and refugees in some way. As a senior in high school, I was expected to create a Senior Project that centers around something that I am passionate about. I chose to focus on the topic of immigration. I knew I wanted to do something personal for the project, so I conducted interviews with seven immigrants from different countries and created a display of the interviews (paired with photographs of the interviewees) in the gallery at my school. However, I also knew that I wanted my project to have a wider impact. So, in addition to the display, I organized a benefit concert at a local brewery (open to all ages) to raise money for the HRI. My central goal, of course, is to fundraise for this organization to assist their efforts in aiding immigrants and refugees. However, I also feel that this benefit concert is a wonderful opportunity to draw public attention to the topic of immigration. I hope that by attending the concert and learning more about the HRI, people are encouraged to take notice of the subject of immigration and consider ways that they can continue to help immigrants in this country.

Please briefly share an ‘aha moment’ (a moment of discovery or insight) that stood out to you during your time/projects with/for HRI.

By learning more about HRI, I realized the importance of legal aid when it comes to immigration issues in the United States. When I considered what organization to fundraise for as part of my Senior Project, I initially intended to choose a charity that provides immigrants with shelter, food, and other necessities. But the more I thought about the larger issue at hand, the more the barrier of legality stood out to me. While it is vital for immigrants to have access to essential needs, providing legal aid tackles the problem at the root. Although that was not something that I had given very much thought to before, it became my primary incentive in choosing the HRI.

HRI was happy to help Grace create marketing materials for her fundraiser

What is something you have learned about yourself while volunteering with HRI?

I learned how deeply immigration to the United States matters to me. The current immigration situation in this country is, in some ways, heartbreaking. However, it is both reassuring and empowering to see the work that organizations such as the HRI do to improve this situation for people. When I spoke to one of the directors of the HRI on the phone after deciding to fundraise for the organization, I was struck by the importance of what they do. I realized that this is not an issue that is going to easily fade into the background for me. The lives of immigrants and refugees matter, and I want to continue working to promote that idea.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a senior at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, an arts-focused high school in Vancouver, Washington. Next year I will be attending Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where I hope to focus on International Studies. I love the arts, reading, writing, and talking to people. I believe that one of the most important skills a person can develop is listening to others. By conducting a series of deeply personal interviews of immigrants for my Senior Project, I was able to build on that skill. As I continue my life and education, I hope that I always continue to listen to the people around me.

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