The IRC in Silver Spring spoke with Emma Mae Regan about her Fall 2022 internship as an Employment and Skill-Building intern. 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, and why you chose to intern at the IRC in Silver Spring this fall? 

A: I recently graduated from Hamilton College with a double Bachelor of Arts in World Politics and French. During my time at Hamilton, I had wonderful experiences interning for smaller nonprofits in the global health and international development fields. From those experiences, I was interested in learning about and working for a larger scale nonprofit. I ultimately wanted to work for the IRC because of the organization’s focus on refugee resettlement. 

Q: What role do you play at IRC Silver Spring? 

A: I serve as a Refugee Employment and Skill-Building Intern. This program helps refugees receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits achieve economic self-sufficiency through employment-related activities. As an intern, I assist clients with conducting job searches, filling out job applications, preparing for interviews, and eliminating barriers to employment (such as enrolling clients in English classes and teaching them digital literacy skills).  

Q: What challenges have you encountered at this internship, and how have you navigated them? 

A: I have primarily encountered challenges with language barriers and delays in public benefits due to increased demand.  

First, the majority of clients in the program speak Dari and Pashto, whereas my background is in English and French. However, at the IRC, we have a fabulous team of interpreters who assist IRC employees and interns by bridging the language gap between us and our clients. 

Second, our clients are enrolled in many government programs outside of the IRC, such as TANF, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Unfortunately, the ever-increasing demand for these programs can cause delays which affect our clients. I help clients resolve these issues by identifying various steps they can take to advocate for themselves. I also try to teach clients that patience and persistence are key when working through these issues.  

Q: What have been your favorite part(s) of this internship? 

A: Without a doubt, my favorite part of the internship has been working in-person with clients and my teammates.  

Given that COVID-19 is still present in the Washington Metropolitan Area, the majority of my work has been remote. However, I have had some opportunities to work in-person at the IRC in Silver Spring this fall. These opportunities have allowed me to meet with my team and to build stronger relationships with clients and their families.  

Having to evacuate one’s home country and resettle in a new one is incredibly difficult for anybody, so my hope is that our work with clients can provide stability and comfort that clients have people in their corner that are dedicated to making their transition easier.