Last week, Knoxville Internationals Network (a.k.a. KIN) did something we’ve never done before. We had a volunteer appreciation dinner. Why do such a thing now? Because we’re celebrating five years as a nonprofit, and it was only natural to celebrate our birthday by celebrating those at the heart of our organization: our volunteers!
In the past five years, more than 500 volunteers have passed through KIN.
Twelve heads bent over the table, seven of them covered by scarves. Sunlight poured over the space from a wall of windows. Six cultures were represented. On this day, they were making potholders: tracing a mitten shape onto colorful fabrics and liners, then hand-sewing the pieces together with strong, white thread.
Several conversations were always going, participants shifting between them without missing a word. One lady stacked her cut pieces on the table, saying, “I can sew at home by myself. I came here to talk.”
When Chester Pun-Chuen immigrated to Knoxville in 1983, he didn’t expect to be an English teacher. He grew up speaking Filipino and English, with a bit of Cantonese from his father. In high school and college, he studied Spanish.
A couple of years ago, while leading his church’s Unity in Diversity ministry, Chester’s pastor asked him and his wife to assist a refugee family from Burundi. He didn’t expect to build such strong relationships with this mother and her four kids. The mom depended on the children to translate for her. Chester knew that was no way to build a life here in Knoxville, but what could he do?
Two long lines of food branched down the hallways: tables loaded with turkey, rolls, and every possible side dish you can imagine. Seventy-one serving dishes in all. We counted. The tables were ready, and the servers were taking that long inhale we all take when the food is ready but no one has started eating yet…that moment of pleasure and anticipation. I (Judith) let my camera fall to my side and enjoyed the moment with them.
Read the stories of Knoxville's local internationals and the volunteers who have impacted their lives. Get a first-hand view of what it's like to move here and/or to serve those who've moved here from other countries. Discover how KIN has impacted life and culture in metro Knoxville.