Hello beautiful people! My name is Amy Yik, the newest team member of RefuTea. I am honored to be a part of such a ground breaking initiative that supports such a special community as the refugee community, a cause close to home–literally.
Before I get into how the refugee community has brought me into the world, let’s start with the basics shall we? Ever since I could remember I was helping. If I wasn’t helping I was either dancing or educating myself about the world around me. Whether or not I already knew about a subject, I wanted to read more about it which has probably been one of the driving forces navigating me and bringing me to this point in my life.
I am now a Grand Valley State University Almunus (no really, I just found out last week)! After 8 indescribable years, I now have a degree I feel I was called to. My degree is Liberal Studies (no, it does not have to do with any political party or necessarily represent my political affiliation). At Grand Valley, there is a create your own major, Liberal Studies, offered by the Brooks College of Inderdisciplinary Studies. In a nutshell, Liberal Studies allows for students to create a major around their interests while having the basic understanding of every other discipline. Basically, I know a little about everything;).
Although I have heard I am now in the “real world.” I have always been an old soul. During my unbelievable years at Grand Valley, I have lived so many lives. I was the young kid involved with multiple registered student organizations and sat on multiple executive board positions and returning home as soon as I could to help my single mother with my siblings and minding our home. I’ve also been the hard working combination plate with the beforementioned things and work to taking time off of school to become a full time caregiver and full time employee. Despite the curve balls, I came back to school a year after my mother had passed on more determined than ever to achieve my degree. I was blessed to leave and return to school with no resistance from the university and focused on reaching my degree part time, running a business part time, while remaining guardian full time. After all this, I am now a Grand Valley State University graduate with a degree in Liberal Studies and an emphasis in Community Health Engagement in Business and Non Profit Organizations (just a fancy way of saying my emphasis is in raising the health of communities through local partnerships).
At first glance I can understand it may be easy to say RefuTea has no relevance to my major—but part of the job of someone with my degree is to connect the dots where there may not be any (or where no dots may exist!). I view health as sustainability. Be it physically, emotionally, mentally, environmentally or through relationship. For me, RefuTea offers a unique opportunity to achieve all those things and more—financial independence, entrepreneurship, and the power over our employees’ lives to live a fulfilling life. It sounds cliché, but weren’t we all created to live our most fulfilling life? My elders needed an opportunity and West Michigan churches gave them so much more than that. There is no doubt RefuTea will offer families in this community what those churches did for my family. By being a recipient of this type of opportunity comes a sense of purpose, humbleness, gratitude and a sense of responsibility to give a hand up to others once it is attainable.
RefuTea entered my life in a business course I took last year. The emphasis of the course was entrepreneurship and the professor referenced the great work Autumn and Jenna are doing to help the community during a couple classes. At the time it was hard to wrap my mind around making time for this opportunity but come to just a semester later, I am in a position where I need to find a new internship opportunity STAT. As soon as the moment came where I needed to find an opportunity which struck a chord with me, I remembered RefuTea. I emailed my professor from that business course for Jenna and Autumn’s contact information and as they say, the rest is history!
Although I may not have had the actual refugee experience myself, I understand the challenges many first generation families are faced with. During the time of the Vietnam War, neighbor nation Cambodia was in a state of genocide. Leader Pol Pot forced the country to begin moving toward year zero. Entire families were split apart, divided into labor groups, and driven to work as slaves meanwhile the educated, one being my uncle, were called to attend “meetings” never to be heard from again. Among these slaves were my entire family of Chinese descent, entrepreneurs themselves who made and sold goods all the while trying to blend in into the Khmer community who did not always welcome them. Somehow my family members were blessed enough to locate one another and fled Cambodia. Between the guerilla army, thugs, and land mines, the journey on foot would not be an easy one. After more time in and out of refugee camps, American churches began visiting the areas my families stayed and sponsored entire families to live in America. The day my family was sponsored unfolded a completely different path for my loved ones and the possibility for my generation to begin a life our parents were willing to sacrifice their lives for.
With all that said (thank you for staying with me for those who made it to this point), among other duties I will be assisting Autumn and Jenna with the RefuTea social media, sourcing, fundraising and event development. Stay tuned for the wonderful things to come! I cannot thank Autumn and Jenna and the support of our community enough for this opportunity!