This article was composed by contributions from WBGFN members
Over the past two years, the WBG Family Network has welcomed 162 new members to the Washington DC area. Unlike the pre-COVID era, many of them had not even arrived in the United States when they attended their welcoming session! Instead, they were virtually welcomed and accompanied in this transition by our Welcoming Team.
The quick adjustment to the unprecedented situation proved yet again the WBGFN volunteers’ strong commitment and everlasting enthusiasm! With the Welcoming Information Session going virtual in April 2020, our new members continued receiving firsthand information on settling in in the DMV area from the comfort of their homes all over the world. The Welcoming Information session was adjusted and fine-tuned to the virtual format: the duration was reduced from 2.5 hours when in the office to 1 hour and slotted to late afternoon DC time in order to accommodate diverse time zones. The COVID-19 pandemic may have surprised us in many negative ways but for our organization, it also triggered creativity and made us more responsive than ever!
Technology and diverse social media platforms were also on our side in this new virtual adventure. In the Family Network’s language, to welcome means to connect and give newcomers a sense of community so they never feel alone. Since in-person gatherings were no longer possible, we turned to virtual solutions, such as online meetings and WhatsApp / Telegram chat groups to reduce physical distance and maintain the community spirit. Whenever possible, we also reached out to new members by phone for a more personal touch. Despite this challenging context, many new members joined the ranks of WBGFN volunteers and started giving back to our community.
Since the inception of the organization, welcoming our members has been at the very heart of the Family Network’s mission. Even 50 years back, “the desire to welcome newcomers to the World Bank and to offer them help was the main incentive for organizing World Bank Volunteer Services.” From 'hotel' and 'neighborhood welcomers' in the '70s through neighborhood coffee meetings to the monthly welcoming coffees at the WBVS office in the ’90s, the Welcoming Program at HQ was constantly evolving yet preserving its basic goals: “to provide a friendly voice soon after arrival and an open door for help in adjusting to life in Washington.”
On March 24th, we will be hosting a special anniversary event – dedicated to the Welcome and Support provided by the Family Network in Washington DC. We invite you to join us for this exceptional journey through 5 decades of rewarding experiences, unforgettable friendships, and stories that made WBGFN what it is today.
In the meantime, you can read what our members have to say, in their own words, about their experience with WBGFN Welcoming!
Kiki from Indonesia
Relocation often gives people both excitement and emotional stress of moving. Getting notified about it during Covid-19 pandemic added an extra layer of emotion to me. I realized that it is necessary to start doing my research early, prepare checklist, and get help! This was when I decided to join WBGFN Virtual Welcoming Information Session. Beyond sharing practical information such as tips for accompanying spouses like me to obtain Employment Authorization Card (EAC) or driving license, it gave me chance to get connected with the community (I no longer feel going through this alone!) and volunteering opportunities. Reading relocation handbook from the Bank is helpful, but the session surely is a big help for me too. I appreciate virtual format initiated during the pandemic. Unlike before, it is possible to attend the session way before the relocation, I felt reassured about how settling in is before arriving in DC.
Eunice from Kenya
Relocating to DC with the family during the pandemic was a very difficult decision to make but after joining the welcoming session in Sept’20, I felt at ease to make the decision since I met members who had been on the same journey, got a better understanding of the work permit application process, driving license et al. We relocated in June’21 and due to the pandemic, the process of getting a work permit and driving license was very slow but I managed to make the best of the situation by signing up to be a volunteer and attending sessions organized for members. By September, I started volunteering in social media, special events committees and later joined the WBGFN executive committee. I have had the opportunity to work with great people, learnt new skills and built new relationships. I look forward to meeting the team in person when the office re-opens fully.
Vanditha from India
"I had the chance to participate in WBGFN's Virtual Welcoming Information Session earlier this year, which was educational and handy. We were welcomed by a warm and welcoming group of staff members who addressed many of our general queries, including mine, about the EAC and driving license applications, as well as volunteer opportunities in WBGFN, using an easy-to-follow cheat sheet that breaks down the complex application process into a simple checklist. In addition, we learned about all of the other important documents required upon arrival, different medical insurance terminologies/plans, and a brief on year-round activities to engage, educate and support the spouses. I would highly recommend it to all newly arrived or yet to arrive members."
Ishmeen from India
Had my first session with the WBGFN virtual welcoming team on 1st March 2022. The warm welcome and friendly vibes made me feel like having my second family in Washington DC. The session was very knowledgeable and got a clear idea about the process (including EAC, Medical and Driving License) which we need to go through after landing in DC. Will be going through the process very soon and now I know whom to get in touch with in case I have any doubts, which I am sure I will have plenty of, moving to a new country. Feeling blessed and happy to have the support from the WBGFN team.
Hely from Philippines:
Relocating to a new country wasn't easy, especially with my whole family. In July 2018, a few weeks after my arrival in DC, I received a Welcoming call from WBGFN and an invitation to attend the Welcoming Coffee. A small gesture such as this was reassuring and helped me feel that I am not alone. The day I attended the session not only assisted me to learn information about how to obtain various documents but also began a beautiful friendship with other members of the WBGFN. I ended up volunteering and had the opportunity to Co-chair the WBGFN Welcoming Program, where I was able to share the things I had learned with newcomers. Indeed, being part of the WBGFN Welcoming Program has been a great experience that remains with me and I am always grateful to be a part of it.