Make a difference, volunteer with the Marshallese

ASHLEY BURGER/TheThreefoldAdvocate
Marshallese children play with volunteers at an outreach gathering in Springdale, Arkansas.

“The United States killed my family, and they ruined my home,” Laiku, a Marshallese woman currently living in Springdale, said. I hated the feeling that the place I called home could ever cause someone so much pain, so I did something about it.

The Marshall Islands was a nuclear test site for the United States from 1946 to 1958 where about 67 nuclear bombs were dropped. Families were torn apart, and the island was destroyed.

The United States soon realized people were dying because of nuclear contamination. In order to fix their mistake, the American government decided to let the Marshallese come to America.

The Marshallese people were allowed into the U.S. without social security cards, birth certificates or identification cards. The decision to let the Marshallese people in with few restrictions was helpful, but it has had negative effects.

They cannot get well-paid jobs, apply for disability or attend to everyday issues. The Marshallese culture is free and open, so feeling so confined to these restrictions has been a difficult adjustment.

Furthermore, a lot of the older Marshallese people, ages 30-50, don’t speak English. You can only communicate with the younger generation, and they can translate for you. Language is just another barrier to make them feel trapped.

Most families were torn apart when the Marshallese people moved. Some parents would send their children in order for them to have a better life, but the parents would stay. A lot of the families in Springdale have about nine kids, but only three of the kids will be blood-related.

Currently, I work with an outreach for the Marshallese people. I get the opportunity to play and love the Marshallese kids every week in Springdale. They have so much energy, and they want to know more about their true Heavenly Father.

They have joy and love even with the issues they occur on a daily basis, and my faith has grown because of their culture. Marshallese culture is so welcoming and joyful, and I think it is important for every human being to be loved like our Father loves us.

I know students at JBU have so much love to give, and they don’t always know where to get involved – like me. I struggled with finding a good outreach. I tried animal shelters and homeless shelters, but it just didn’t seem right for me.

I never expected to get involved with the Marshallese children because I am not a big fan of kids, but the moment I heard their story I knew I needed to help.

Now I find joy in giving piggy-back rides, playing tag, and having kids pulling me limb from limb in order to hug me.

Maybe you will too.