Photo Apr 02, 18 35 55.jpg


This morning started as many of mine do in Budapest – with me running late for my morning at the Ecumenical Office and rushing to get ready on time. Except today there was an extra twist. In the midst of my hurried morning preparations, I got a Facebook message from my boss at Kalunba (a non-profit that is the RCH’s official implementing partner for refugee integration work) asking if anyone was available to help her go with some guys to a job interview. They had prepared the day before at Kalunba for the interview, but it was in English and of course they were a bit nervous (I would be!).

Since being a personal cheerleader is basically my second occupation in life, I instantly wanted to be there.

Thankfully my schedule here in Budapest is flexible enough that when I’m truly needed at one of my placements (either the ecumenical office or at Kalunba), the other placement understands and lets me adjust my schedule accordingly. And so it was that after carefully applying my makeup and whirling about my flat to do everything else I needed to for the day, I was soon on my way to Kalunba.

There I met up with the four guys going for the interview and knew that I had made the right call in my schedule for the day. Some were totally at ease, while I could tell that others were feeling a bit more anxious. Dora (a spectacular human being and my boss at Kalunba) and I got their resumes printed and ready, passed them out to the men, and we were off – a ragtag group that got plenty of stares as we went just two metro stops into downtown to the store where the interviews were going to take place.

We stopped off at a Starbucks on the corner to get breakfast and kill some time since we had arrived well in advance of our appointments. Some men got coffee, other had just juice, and after they had their drinks they had spread out in the café and outside to relax before their interviews. I stayed inside for a bit, talking to a couple guys about how they were feeling for the interview and asking a few practice questions, and then I went outside to hang out with the two smokers to give them last-minute interview pointers as well.

Soon, it was time to begin. Dora entered the business to let them know we had arrived and she briefed the owners on the gentlemen who were about to come in – they knew that they were refugees and were uncertain of how things were going to go. They had no clue what to expect given all the horrible communications campaigns funded by the government since 2015 detailing how dangerous and horrible refugees and migrants are. (Totally false – obviously)

One by one, our guys went in to talk to the store owners while the rest of us moved to Starbucks’ outdoor patio to wait with baited breath. As each man walked to the store we would cheer and shout messages of encouragement, getting even more stares from others in the vicinity (as if we weren’t already getting enough, being a co-ed, international, multiethnic group speaking English in Central Europe..). We would joke around with the guys who were still waiting for their interview to help them stay calm and then get all riled up when someone would return from the store with a smile on their face. We took selfies and drank lattes and had an absolute ball despite all the nerves that I’m sure the guys were feeling.

When the last man had returned, Dora went back into the store to thank the owners for their time and was surprised at what she found – they thanked her. One woman was almost in tears as they thanked her for introducing them to these refugees and letting them see that there is another side to the story of human migration that is much different than the tale that the Hungarian government is spinning.

The store owners were so pleased with our people that they asked for two of the four to come back tomorrow for a training and trial day! They gave us worksheets to study with the guys and sent us on our way.

As we all walked away from the store we were giddy with excitement – we had our arms thrown around one another, taking more selfies, huge grins plastered on our faces, feeling like at last things are getting better.

The people at Kalunba looking for jobs are men with families to provide for, children and siblings and spouses to feed, who are discriminated against daily based on their country of origin, native language, or skin tone. These men want what we all want – a chance to be productive members of society and stable providers for those they love. I’m so thrilled that one more business in Budapest is going to be a part of making this a reality.