As a member of an immigrant family from México, Erick Ramos has seen the struggles that immigrants and refugees face when living in a new country.
Upon arrival to the United States at the age of five, Ramos was faced with an experience common for immigrants- culture shock. “When I got here, I went straight into an English-speaking school and did not speak a word of it. I would also get made fun of by other students for how I spoke and for the way I looked,” Ramos explains. Ramos, now 24-years-old and a tried-and-true Memphian, has worked as the Youth Director at Multinational Memphis for five years.
Multinational Memphis is a non-profit, faith-based organization that is dedicated to assisting immigrants and refugees in the Mid-South since 1991. Immigrants from all over the world come to Multinational Memphis in hopes to find community and support for their transition in life, whether that be through learning English or school assistance. “I know the struggle some of these kids are going through with learning a new language and navigating a school system; but at the same time, they are experiencing more than what I did with social media pressuring them with what’s normal and how they aren’t,” Ramos says. As a person of color, Ramos explains how much of social media promotes white culture and how there are not enough representations of people of different shades of brown.
Immigrants and refugees often have to leave their homes and families in extreme circumstances, which may be near impossible for some to imagine; just to find themselves having to hurdle language barriers, cultural stigma, and a lack of support. “I remember being detained in an orphanage for a week, separate from my family. It was scary and I cried every day. Some of these kids have it way worse today,” Ramos says. Being a hub for multi-national immigrants and refugees, Memphis provides a demand for community-based support and involvement in the lives of those making the 901 their new home.
Ramos’ job is developing relationships with the youth both in their educational and personal lives. He can be found helping students through Multinational Memphis’ after-school tutoring program, working at organized events intended for strengthening the immigrant community, and transporting students to and from school. “Much of what I do is to simply show these kids that there is support for them and that they aren’t being overlooked. Middle school and high school-aged kids are at an impressionable age where they need a mentor to show them that they can participate in healthy and positive activities,” Ramos says.
A strong desire of Ramos’ is to see what happens within the walls of Multinational Memphis to expand into the community. In efforts to raise funds and awareness of the need for support of immigrants and refugees; Multinational Memphis hosts the Hope 5K, has a platform on their website for donations, and will host a World Soup Festival this month. The festival will feature cuisine from twelve countries around the world representing some of the very homes of immigrants and refugees living in Memphis. Ramos encourages anyone and everyone to come and expand their knowledge of their neighbors.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is to build friendships with these kids and their families. I have the privilege to see them grow and become a part of the community and I want Memphis to be involved in that,” he says.