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Announcement

Views from the intern’s desk: IRC

By Michal Petros

Living​ ​in​ ​the​ ​USA,​ ​particularly​ ​in​ ​the​ ​nation’s​ ​capital,​ ​provides​ ​endless​ ​opportunities​ ​to dedicate​ ​time​ ​and​ ​effort​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​refugee​ ​and​ ​asylee​ ​community.​ ​Over​ ​the​ ​summer,​ ​I​ ​was lucky​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​contribute​ ​to​ ​this​ ​work​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Asylee​ ​Casework​ ​Intern​ ​with​ ​the​ ​International Rescue​ ​Committee​ ​(IRC).​ ​Kind,​ ​genuine​ ​and​ ​dedicated​ ​doesn’t​ ​begin​ ​to​ ​the​ ​scratch​ ​the​ ​surface of​ ​the​ ​IRC​ ​staff​ ​in​ ​Silver​ ​Spring.​ ​I​ ​had​ ​the​ ​privilege​ ​of​ ​witnessing​ ​and​ ​taking​ ​part​ ​in​ ​clients’ transition​ ​to​ ​the​ ​USA,​ ​and​ ​because​ ​of​ ​this,​ ​I​ ​can​ ​provide​ ​testament​ ​to​ ​the​ ​time​ ​and​ ​effort​ ​that caseworkers​ ​commit​ ​to​ ​each​ ​and​ ​every​ ​client.

The​ ​Casework​ ​Team​ ​works​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​that​ ​clients​ ​receive​ ​the​ ​benefits​ ​and​ ​support​ ​that they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​acclimate​ ​to​ ​their​ ​new​ ​homes​ ​in​ ​the​ ​USA.​ ​My​ ​work​ ​often​ ​required​ ​working​ ​with​ ​the files​ ​of​ ​all​ ​IRC​ ​clients,​ ​but​ ​my​ ​supervisors’​ ​direct​ ​clients​ ​were​ ​all​ ​asylees.​ ​New​ ​clients​ ​arrive​ ​to the​ ​IRC​ ​once​ ​they​ ​have​ ​been​ ​granted​ ​asylum,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​first​ ​thing​ ​that​ ​the​ ​Casework​ ​Team​ ​does is​ ​open​ ​a​ ​file​ ​on​ ​the​ ​share​ ​drive​ ​r​ ​with​ ​the​ ​client’s​ ​basic​ ​information.​ ​From​ ​there,​ ​the​ ​client makes​ ​appointments​ ​with​ ​our​ ​two​ ​asylee​ ​caseworkers​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​turn​ ​in​ ​documents​ ​such​ ​as asylum​ ​approval,​ ​social​ ​security​ ​cards,​ ​Medicaid,​ ​their​ ​lease,​ ​etc.​ ​We​ ​also​ ​sign​ ​them​ ​up​ ​for​ ​the appropriate​ ​cash​ ​assistance​ ​programs​ ​before​ ​sending​ ​them​ ​to​ ​our​ ​Employment​ ​Specialist Team.

An IRC Intern Hard at Work Photo: Nigist Gebretsion/IRC

Although​ ​work​ ​authorization​ ​cards​ ​come​ ​at​ ​varying​ ​times​ ​for​ ​different​ ​clients,​ ​sometimes taking​ ​over​ ​six​ ​months,​ ​our​ ​employment​ ​specialists​ ​prep​ ​our​ ​clients​ ​for​ ​their​ ​job​ ​search​ ​by sharing​ ​opportunities,​ ​creating​ ​or​ ​editing​ ​resumes​ ​and​ ​providing​ ​professional​ ​clothing​ ​for interviews.​ ​The​ ​IRC​ ​is​ ​also​ ​fortunate​ ​to​ ​share​ ​our​ ​office​ ​space​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Department​ ​of​ ​Social Services​ ​and​ ​have​ ​our​ ​office​ ​located​ ​down​ ​the​ ​street​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Medicaid​ ​office,​ ​as​ ​it​ ​makes applying​ ​for​ ​required​ ​documents​ ​easier​ ​for​ ​our​ ​clients.

In​ ​my​ ​internship,​ ​there​ ​was​ ​no​ ​average​ ​day​ ​at​ ​the​ ​office.​ ​The​ ​interdependence​ ​between the​ ​Casework​ ​Team​ ​and​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​office​ ​means​ ​that​ ​I​ ​was​ ​constantly​ ​interacting​ ​with people​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​office​ ​and​ ​exchanging​ ​clients’​ ​files​ ​as​ ​clients’​ ​cases​ ​evolved​ ​to​ ​require assistance​ ​from​ ​different​ ​teams.​ ​In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​filing​ ​and​ ​organizing​ ​cases,​ ​I​ ​entered​ ​clients’ information​ ​in​ ​the​ ​monthly​ ​report​ ​that​ ​was​ ​sent​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Maryland​ ​Office​ ​of​ ​Refugees​ ​and​ ​Asylees, called​ ​clients​ ​for​ ​appointments​ ​or​ ​documents,​ ​met​ ​with​ ​clients,​ ​and​ ​picked​ ​up​ ​shifts​ ​at​ ​the reception​ ​desk.​ ​My​ ​varied​ ​responsibilities​ ​gave​ ​me​ ​a​ ​more​ ​holistic​ ​view​ ​at​ ​how​ ​the​ ​IRC​ ​operates as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​strengthened​ ​my​ ​communication​ ​skills.

Another​ ​aspect​ ​of​ ​my​ ​internship​ ​that​ ​enhanced​ ​my​ ​experience​ ​was​ ​working​ ​under​ ​the leadership​ ​of​ ​black​ ​women.​ ​With​ ​the​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​gender​ ​and​ ​racial​ ​diversity​ ​in​ ​all​ ​work​ ​fields,​ ​it​ ​was amazing​ ​to​ ​have​ ​representation​ ​with​ ​the​ ​leadership​ ​in​ ​my​ ​office.​ ​Contributing​ ​to​ ​the​ ​vast diversity​ ​of​ ​the​ ​IRC​ ​office,​ ​my​ ​two​ ​supervisors​ ​were​ ​a​ ​Ivorian​ ​and​ ​Ethiopian​ ​woman,​ ​who​ ​served both​ ​as​ ​my​ ​leadership​ ​figures​ ​and​ ​role​ ​models.​ ​Representation​ ​was​ ​incredibly​ ​prevalent​ ​in​ ​my experience​ ​working​ ​for​ ​the​ ​IRC​ ​as​ ​my​ ​past​ ​experiences​ ​have​ ​not​ ​always​ ​enriched​ ​me​ ​in​ ​this way.​ ​This​ ​representation​ ​was​ ​both​ ​an​ ​empowering​ ​and​ ​rewarding​ ​experience,​ ​as​ ​I​ ​learned​ ​a​ ​lot through​ ​the​ ​times​ ​we​ ​shared​ ​our​ ​life​ ​experiences.

Working​ ​with​ ​a​ ​diverse​ ​group​ ​of​ ​people,​ ​dedicated​ ​to​ ​making​ ​a​ ​difference​ ​in​ ​clients’​ ​lives, was​ ​easily​ ​the​ ​highlight​ ​of​ ​my​ ​summer​ ​(almost​ ​making​ ​me​ ​forget​ ​about​ ​the​ ​hour​ ​commute​ ​from Arlington​ ​to​ ​the​ ​office).​ ​This​ ​internship​ ​gave​ ​me​ ​unique​ ​views​ ​of​ ​an​ ​internationally​ ​acclaimed non-profit,​ ​while​ ​allowing​ ​me​ ​to​ ​contribute​ ​to​ ​the​ ​domestic​ ​scope​ ​of​ ​work.​ ​The​ ​office​ ​puts endless​ ​hours​ ​into​ ​making​ ​sure​ ​clients​ ​are​ ​on​ ​the​ ​right​ ​track​ ​to​ ​acclimating​ ​to​ ​their​ ​new​ ​homes and​ ​reaching​ ​the​ ​goals​ ​they​ ​have​ ​set​ ​for​ ​themselves.​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​incredibly​ ​lucky​ ​that​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​think​ ​of​ ​a better​ ​internship​ ​I​ ​would​ ​have​ ​rather​ ​had​ ​this​ ​summer.