Our Interns are Amazing!
The IRC in Silver Spring regularly recruits between 17-20 interns per term to work with directly with staff and refugee clients. They work intensively in one of several core services program areas. Here, two of our outstanding interns discuss why they have worked, virtually for free, for the IRC for more than a year now and how one person can change lives – including their own!
Megan L. has been the Bhutanese Community Program Intern since the fall of 2010. She received her Master’s degree this past June in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. Megan has been focused on international issues and development since spending several years in Africa.
Lauren W. has interned with the IRC in Silver Spring since the spring of 2010, working with both the resettlement case management staff and our new cultural orientation program. Lauren holds a Masters degree in Public Health from George Washington University and has worked on over-arching refugee issues, particularly focusing on populations in East Africa.
How did you first hear about the IRC?
M: I heard about the IRC when I focused my career on promoting gender equality, combating gender-based violence, and implementing gender mainstreaming. I learned of the IRC’s leadership in these areas while obtaining my Master’s degree and spending time in the field.
L: I first heard of the IRC while studying abroad in Kenya in college. I was doing research in a refugee camp there and the IRC ran all of the health facilities, so when I returned to the U.S. I looked them up.
What was it that prompted you to apply for an internship at the Silver Spring office?
M: I was prompted to apply for this particular internship at the Silver Spring office because the responsibilities, which included providing capacity building support and promoting women’s empowerment, matched the skills-sets I sought to grow to advance my career. Moreover, this internship allowed me to finish my Master’s degree in the United States while learning how an international non-governmental organization operates domestically.
L: I had interned and volunteered with the IRC in Boston and Seattle previously and was now living in D.C. working on my M.P.H. at George Washington University. I had loved every previous experience with the IRC and loved working with all of the diverse and friendly clients, so I knew it would be a great way to spend a summer.
Why is giving back important to you, as working as an unpaid intern is really a generous donation of time and effort?
M: My grandfather once told me that you have to work, so you might as well love what you do. I truly love what I do within the IRC and I would continue my internship for years if possible.
L: I just can’t imagine what it is like to be a refugee and then being brave enough to begin a new life in a foreign land. It takes a lot of courage. I admire the clients immensely and like being able to work with different cultures.
What was your most memorable experience as an intern?
M: I helped a group of refugee women form a sewing club, encouraging them to grow this endeavor into a sustainable micro-enterprise. After fundraising sewing materials, we visited craft stores and markets to learn about potential business opportunities. During our field trip, I had a conversation with three Bhutanese women who spoke few words of English. Although our verbal language may have been limited, we did not lack communication. Being able to communicate with the women on topics other than sewing or resettlement, without a lot of English, has been my most memorable experience as an intern. Likewise, I am exceptionally proud of these women who will showcase and sell their products in Washington, DC this fall. (Keep your eyes on our website for event announcements!)
L: One night last winter there was a large Nepali family arriving to the airport. The case worker and I picked them up and brought them to their new apartment where they met up with the rest of their (large!) family. They hadn’t all been together in over eight months. The kids stayed up in their PJ’s and there were about 40 people—all from the same family—in one room, excited to all be together again.
If you could tell others who are interested in getting involved, why should they choose the IRC, what would you tell them?
M: I could probably write a short novel on the reasons why someone should join the IRC and the experiences that come from having an internship with the IRC in Silver Spring. If I was to write this novel, chapter titles would include: (1) Coworkers wanting to help you and the world; (2) Life lessons learned from a refugee; and (3) How to strengthen your weaknesses: experiences while managing the front desk. However, given only an elevator ride to pitch this novel, I would state: “While I admire the IRC for aiding refugees and asylees, I value the work done by volunteers and employees to encourage their clients to become self-sufficient.”
L: It’s a hardworking organization. It can be tiring at times, but I think that is only because of the dedication of the staff, the work never seems to end. Our refugee clients are so appreciative and you will learn a TON about cultures and hospitality.
For information about how you can become part of the IRC in Silver Spring through internships and volunteer opportunities, please contact VolunteerDC@Rescue.org