Peter Zigterman ‘08
–By Christy Wolff ‘10
Basketball has always been front and center for Peter Zigterman ‘08. While he enjoyed playing for Trinity and eventually coaching for nine years after graduation, his passion for demonstrating Christ’s love to refugees and immigrants began to take a more prominent focus. “I noticed in myself outside of work that I was spending less time watching basketball and more time reading an article on immigration policy, for example,” Zigterman shared.
That’s where World Relief enters his story.
World Relief seeks to help refugees and immigrants navigate the transition to starting a new life in the United States. As director of immigrant family services, Zigterman helps others find a job, access medical services, locate affordable housing, and other services that are hard to navigate if English isn’t your first language. His team also makes sure kids are enrolled in school, provides tutoring services, and ensures someone is present at parent-teacher conferences to help with any language barriers.
Zigterman works primarily with refugees and immigrants from Venezuela, Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Syria, and Mexico — among others. “I really enjoy meeting people from all over the world and hearing about their experiences, stories, and what their culture and homeland was like,” Zigterman said.
Developing relationships with others stemmed from his time at Trinity, specifically during his time playing on the basketball team. “In this totally new employment sector, I’ve been surprised by how much I learned in coaching and playing basketball and how many of those skills were transferable to what I’m doing now, specifically developing relationships with a refugee so they trust you,” said Zigterman, who majored in physical education teaching and coaching at Trinity, and then went on earn a master’s degree in sports science from United States Sports Academy.
Tim Walker, former basketball coach at Trinity, modeled these skills on and off the court, mentoring Zigterman along the way. “Coach Walker played a huge role in demonstrating to me how that’s done.”
Through his relationships with the refugees and immigrants he assists, Zigterman has heard story after story of individuals and families fleeing their country because they are facing imprisonment or even the safety of their own lives. Beyond these difficult situations, the COVID-19 pandemic has created unimaginable hardships for families who are trying to establish new lives in the U.S. “We’ve filled out hundreds of unemployment applications and spent a lot of time finding the money to keep people from losing their homes,” Zigterman said.
In the midst of these troubles, Zigterman is witnessing a lot of hope. “Many people are taking advantage of their unemployment, since it makes them eligible to receive a voucher to pay for a vocational training course,” Zigterman explained. “We’re all moving forward together.”
Moving forward also includes exploring ways to connect Trinity students to mentoring and volunteer opportunities at World Relief. “A lot of young adults who have immigrated from other countries want to go to college, but they need guidance on what applying looks like. They can’t rely on their parents because their parents didn’t have that experience,” Zigterman said. And with just one person overseeing this sector at World Relief, receiving help from Trinity students will allow assistance for more people.
Nearly four years since beginning his time at World Relief, it’s clear that Zigterman is demonstrating Christ’s love through his career, based on the foundations that grew during his time at Trinity. “What motivates me is wanting to be a part of the church that is doing the vocation that the Lord gave us,” Zigterman said. “It’s important that we, as Christians, demonstrate the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world.”
To learn more about World Relief, or to make a donation that supports refugees, please visit worldrelief.org