Last Week Reflections

Hard to believe that this internship is tapering to a close already–these 2.5 months have flown by! I continue to be so grateful for the learning opportunity that this summer position has offered to me. This introduction into the realm of services for refugees and immigrants has proven to be an acutely sobering experience. I feel more receptive and empathetic towards people who have been uprooted and thrown into environments that are completely alien and often indifferent towards their presence. However, embedded in this newfound receptiveness is also the humbling knowledge that I am in a position of such privilege and power that I will never begin to truly understand the experiences of our clients here in their new home of Manchester, NH. It has been uncomfortable to me to step into the lives and new homes of clients from conflict-ridden Central African countries. To know that even as the odor of frying oil and too many bodies packed into a two bedroom apartment washes over me, even as I hold a baby in my arms and help a woman who speaks no English at all check in at the doctor’s office, even as I wince over the details a raped and abused client’s mental trauma in her medical file–I will go home tonight to fragrant sheets, a clean kitchen, and a town where everyone looks like me and speaks my language.

I have brushed past people whose sons have been tortured and killed, whose daughters are missing, whose cousins have trekked on foot over country borders, across hundreds of miles, only to find themselves in another overcrowded refugee camp. I have helped a woman from Yemen apply for endless jobs at Whole Foods despite consistent rejection letters–she lives here alone but is desperate to send money home to her large family and does not know how to use a computer or fill out an online application.

The employees of the IINE work constantly (often overtime, often unpaid, often on the weekends). As my supervisor told me: “That’s the life of a social worker. If a client calls at 3am with an emergency, we have to be there.” While I may have failed to adopt this tireless work ethic, I do think that I have learned a lot about the resources that non-profit resettlement agencies are able to give to their clients. This has given me some hope for the futures of our clients, for their integration into American life would be so much more turbulent than it already is if it were not for the energies and efforts of the IINE employees.

Terms whose meanings used to be cloudy and of little relevance to me have distinguished themselves in my vocabulary: Medicaid, International Office of Migration, WellSense, Asylum-seeker, SNAP, Refugee Health Assessment, PPD test, ESOL…the list goes on. I feel more equipped to hold my own in discussions about immigration policy and services, and am gratified to know that in my personal family and friend circles, I am often the most informed conversationalist on these topics. I hope to use this new collection of terms and knowledge as a tool to help shape others’ understanding of what migrants need, and what they are seeking. This summer has been a special one–I’m certain that I will keep in close touch with the IINE. WRD19 - Manchester-266 WRD19 - Manchester-179