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Volunteering goes virtual

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Photo: IRC/Cameron Karsten

While COVID-19 presents new challenges for the people we serve at the IRC in Seattle, community members are stepping up to help in new ways, as well. Meet our first cohort of virtual interns.

Kenneth, a youth summer school intern, was motivated to volunteer with the IRC after his plans to conduct research at a biology lab in Germany were cancelled as a result of the pandemic. He shared that “after hearing about how COVID-19 has been disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities in various ways, I was moved to help however I could. I'm grateful that I was able to serve these communities by helping youth continue developing their English and math skills over the summer.” Despite the unexpected change in his research plans, Kenneth has found a silver lining in working with his students and witnessing their growth firsthand.

Many of the IRC’s summer interns have experienced a rapidly changing landscape of academic and professional development in light of COVID-19, but have also found meaningful ways to adapt to these changes. For Jess, a career development intern, working remotely has provided a chance to spend time with family members in Colorado while helping refugee communities in the Seattle area. Similarly, immigration intern, Kendrick, says not having a daily commute has created an opportunity to “reflect on my time commitments and how I can maximize my impact while also managing my time effectively." In addition to his internship at IRC, Kendrick is using his free time this summer to prepare for the law school admissions exam.

While most of the IRC’s summer interns report they would be willing to serve remotely again in the future, it has not been without its difficulties. “Building connections with students online is definitely a challenge and trying to hold engaging lessons through a screen is tricky,” said Sneha, a youth summer school intern and rising high school senior. Despite growing more comfortable with working in an online setting, Sneha said that she still prefers in-person interaction. Sneha expressed that her academic life has been deeply impacted by COVID-19, and that it has been difficult to keep up with the changes to college application processes. However, she's learned a lot from interacting and connecting with her students this summer, even if it has to be over a video call.

For Nathan, an intern with the IRC's economic empowerment program, this summer has provided the opportunity to learn to “effectively engage with clients using translation services and Google Voice messaging,” and how to use platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Nathan considers these skills to be essential for his continued professional development under the current world conditions.

Although each of the virtual interns at the IRC in Seattle has had a unique experience this summer, they all share a passion for community service and a commitment to serving immigrant and refugee populations. And like many of the clients they serve, IRC interns are resilient and skilled at adapting to change. We're so grateful to all of our summer interns who have chosen to spend their summers with the IRC in Seattle!

Interested in joining IRC's outstanding team of volunteers & interns? Learn more here!