An Intern’s Reflections
Briefly describing my experience as an intern at the IRC in Baltimore is quite a request , precisely because the place, the people and work demands so much more. I have come to love my time working with the people at the IRC – the clients, case workers and all of the interns and volunteers have affected me in a profound way. Every day minor miracles take place inside the Baltimore Resettlement Center, where the IRC in Baltimore is located, all because of the people who work there. Each day I was impressed by the tenacity and talent displayed by the people at the IRC. The dedication shown by the workers there has rubbed off on me and I am proud to say that I have tried my best to reflect those very same traits myself. Inspired by the people I met I worked hard to help the clients in every way I could.
As an intern you often have to think on your feet; being flexible is a must. During one of my first assignments, I was sent to meet a family at their home in order to take a client to Johns Hopkins Hospital for a medical appointment. The client was pregnant and one of the family members volunteered to accompany her to the appointment. I arrived at the home to pick them up. Filled with people, the house was bustling and busy – no one spoke English or had much time to help me find who I was looking for. So I reflected on my training and tried to call the language line for an interpreter. However, in my haste to meet the clients on time I had left my phone at the IRC. I politely asked to use their phone, and I called the case manager who was able to ask the family about the clients’ whereabouts. It seemed that both of the clients were missing in action.
The family then resolved to help me and spread out through the neighborhood to find my missing duo. After about 15 minutes I had nearly half of a neighborhood, all Burmese refugees, coming to help me. Despite a small army of children running around the block and various adults on cell phones we came up empty. A long story made short, the case manager found them…at the IRC patiently waiting for me. I had even walked past them on my way out the door. A slight interpretation mix up or missed cue caused them to come to me rather than the other way around. I drove back picked them up and got them a later appointment – mission accomplished. It goes to show that you have to do what it takes to get the job done. It almost never goes to plan but it is always a worthwhile experience.
Working at the IRC has been supremely rewarding and has served to reinforce my aspiration to make my career into one that truly helps people from all over the world. From the first few hours of my time as a volunteer through my last few weeks as an intern, I have come to understand how important the IRC is to its clients. Being part of the operation to bring them peace and security has been an experience I will not soon forget. Day to day, seeing the relief on the faces of our clients once they knew we would help was rewarding. Yet here my greatest reward was knowing that clients, armed with our support, could make it in this country.
By Jason Childress
Jason Childress was an intern with the IRC in Baltimore’s Asylee Program from February to July. He is a graduate students at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and plans to pursue a career in civil service or nonprofit work.