Tell us about yourself and how you got connected with the IRC Silver Spring.
I am a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy focusing on social policy and international development. I came across the anti-trafficking position with the IRC in Silver Spring when I was searching online for spring internships in the Washington DC area.
What made you decide to provide your community service at the IRC?
It has been a dream of mine for many years to work in the fields of international development and anti-trafficking, so the IRC was a perfect fit. I knew that an internship with the IRC would be a fantastic opportunity to learn directly from those impacted by human trafficking and gain hands-on experience. I had such a fulfilling experience in the spring that I decided to continue interning through the summer.
Describe the general type of services you provide to clients in the Anti-Trafficking Program.
Clients enter the anti-trafficking program having faced a variety of traumatic experiences. For example, I worked with a client who was lured to the United States with the promise of working as a housekeeper for a family in Washington D.C. The client explained that as a poor person from a developing nation, this job offer was a dream come true for her. Unfortunately, she was forced to work 24 hours, 7 days a week for a fraction of what was agreed upon in her contract. After asking for the wages and back pay she was owed, her employer began abusing her, physically and emotionally, with constant threats of deportation. Thankfully, the client was able to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline and escape.
These clients receive comprehensive, trauma-centered case management that includes being connected to legal representation. As the anti-trafficking intern, I consult with clients to identify their needs, then assist them in accessing benefits and local resources to meet those needs. These needs may include legal assistance, healthcare services, housing, nutrition, etc. I also check in with clients regularly to assess their situation and address any needs that arise. For example, I currently assist a client who, due to Covid-19 related school closures, needs to enroll in summer school and I’ve referred clients to an organization that provides therapy for survivors of human trafficking over the telephone, due to the pandemic. Additionally, I use my Spanish-speaking abilities regularly, which allows many clients to communicate with me in their native language.
What are some of the challenges you face in your day-to-day-work? How do you deal with them?
The toughest challenge in my day-to-day work is also the best thing about interning at the IRC: interns have real responsibilities. At first, I felt a lot of pressure to make sure I did and said everything perfectly, especially since I would be interacting with clients who have been through very traumatic experiences. I deal with this fear by focusing on each client individually - by listening to the client, following their lead and doing my best to act on their behalf. Since we cannot currently provide in-person services, the inability to be physically with our clients presents new challenges. Not all clients have the same access to technology or digital literacy, so I mostly rely on phone calls and texts to communicate with them.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
What I enjoy most is working directly with clients. The anti-trafficking program uses a client-centered and trauma-informed approach that allows me to hear the needs and struggles of survivors directly from them. I love working with them to accomplish certain tasks, connecting them to available resources and being a part of their path to self-sufficiency and integration in our community.
What are your career goals, and how do they align with what you do at the IRC?
I hope to work in policy research and advocacy after graduating with my Master of Public Policy. In the classroom, I learn about techniques and processes but through my work as an intern at the IRC, I get to implement the policies and programs themselves, rather than just studying them. This experience has enriched my life as well as my education and will make me a better and more informed policymaker in the future.