Tag Archives: AHANA

RealInternships: Christina Wentworth

This summer, I’m interning in Rochester, NY at the Catholic Family Center’s Refugee Resettlement Program, a program that assists refugees during every stage of the resettlement process from the time they arrive at the airport to the time that—ideally—they are self-sufficient. The services offered by the Catholic Family Center include the completion of all of the paperwork that would otherwise be incomprehensible for a non-English speaker, the procurement of housing and other necessities, assistance in adapting to American culture and society, help getting to medical, public benefits, and educational appointments, and the general facilitation of all aspects of resettlement. To understand how the specific services of this program work, it might help to look at what I do on a daily basis.

Last Wednesday, I found myself at the Department of Human Services helping two Nepali families with the process of applying for public benefits. For anyone that has never experienced the Department of Human Services, it is not very easy to navigate. Further, if you add the obstacle of not being able to speak English to the winding lines and general chaos that is this building, successfully finding and completing an appointment would be an impossible task. For this reason, on Wednesday morning I was there to guide and assist these Nepali clients.

The vast majority of incoming refugees actually come from the refugee camps in Nepal, where the Lhotshampas (people of Nepali origin) fled after their persecution in Bhutan began in the mid-1980s. Despite the fact that so many of the clients speak Nepali, I have yet to pick up any of the language, which presents a barrier that made the morning that much more interesting.

The first official step of the process—security—presented its own issue. After holding up the line for over two minutes while we waited for one of the Nepali women to figure out how to unbuckle her belt—I guess we’ll never know how she was able to get it on in the first place!— the security guard decided that she didn’t pose enough of a threat to keep everyone else waiting and waved her through. Once in the building, I checked the clients in and made sure that all of the paperwork was complete. After an hour or so, they called the younger couple in for their appointment and soon after the 70-year-old Nepali woman was called. While she didn’t seem particularly pleased to be there, after enough smiling and joking on my part she cracked a toothy smile and began to laugh. During the appointments, I helped by communicating with both case workers and making sure that they had all of the necessary information. Following the first appointment, the families once again went to the waiting room before getting called to have their pictures and fingerprints taken. While this whole process would generally be perceived as mundane, it is never boring when you are trying to give directions and describe a system that doesn’t make much sense to begin with using only hand gestures.

When both appointments were finished, the families thanked me and were driven home by one of the employees. As an intern, I do not work on specific cases but rather am placed wherever I am needed for the day. While this makes my work interesting, it is also difficult to meet such kind and generous clients and not have the opportunity to see them again. For this reason, I was very excited that afternoon when I found out that I would be dropping off a prescription at one of my favorite client’s apartment. I imagine that we aren’t supposed to have favorites, but, as hard as I’ve tried, I’ve found it to be impossible not to adore this family and, in particular, the 46-year-old mother that is a bundle of energy.

I met her for the first time when I was conducting a cultural orientation and, although she did not speak any English, she smiled at me for two and a half hours straight and hugged me before she left. The next time I saw the couple and their 15-year-old son was at Saints Place, a volunteer organization that provides household goods and clothing to the refugees. While the husband and son calmly picked out their items, the mother continuously spoke rapid-fire Arabic that was complemented by hand gestures that, elaborate as they were, did not make much sense. Nevertheless, she refused to give up and simply laughed whenever a message was lost in translation. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and, like most refugees, she demonstrated a strong resolve to learn English: “I speak English in 1 year.” Simply establishing that deadline demonstrates how determined she is to create a successful, integrated life in America.

When I arrived at their apartment on Wednesday to drop off the medication, the family immediately ushered me into their home and asked that I sit down for a drink or a meal. This hospitality is common among refugees, who I have found are always prepared to give even when they have very little. Although I insisted that I could not stay, the mother was pleased to have company and to be able to tell me how much she loves the new apartment. She happily chatted away until her son, embarrassed as teenage boys usually are, subtly noted that she did not have her dentures in. After laughing and briefly covering her mouth, she continued to talk about the nearby pool and her new sunburn. When I left shortly after, the whole family walked me outside and waited until I had driven out of sight before going back inside. Even though it was a brief visit, the family’s graciousness for the little help I provided and their eagerness to move forward and to continue to learn was invigorating.

When I got back to the office, I prepared paperwork for refugees that would be coming in the following week. While this work is not as stimulating as meeting with clients, it is a necessary part of the job and a good way to wind down after meeting with families that have so much energy! =)

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RealInternships: Jonathan Moy

There isn’t really a “typical” day at Road Scholar.The department I work in is very small with only three people (including myself) so every day I find myself doing something different.  Today, I made reference calls, archived documents, prepared employment packets, and enrolled new hires into Road Scholar’s insurance programs.  My day-to-day tasks include archiving employee documents, posting jobs online (on places like Craigslist, Monster, EagleLink), managing job applications for the offices in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New Mexico, and setting up candidate interviews for each office. Most recently, I have been working on building a compensation survey for the Board of Directors here at Road Scholar. I take Form 990s from various not-for-profit organizations similar to Road Scholar’s and compare and record how much each person on the Board makes with the corresponding Board members in the other organizations. This is done to make sure that the Board members’ salaries at Road Scholar are fair and reasonable. The hardest part of my job are the reference calls. It is nerve-wracking. Before making the calls, I rehearse what I need to and what I am allowed to say as the interviewer. I am constantly learning something new about employment and compliance laws here at Road Scholar, and I look forward to learning even more in the remaining weeks I have left.

RealInternships: Octavio Brindis

Despite the warm and humid weather, I experienced one of the best summers of my life in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region and within the walls of the Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) Department of Education Building. As an intern for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, I was able to take part of an initiative that enhanced my professional and educational experience.

On June 9, 2012, I attended a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit in Arlington, Virginia. The following week, I had the opportunity to attend another summit in Silver Spring, Maryland. During these summits, community leaders and members gathered to discuss and find solutions to community issues with the assistance of federal employees from various departments such as the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the White House. I welcomed guests, took notes of the conversations and was able to participate in the discussions. The discussions were focused on the environment, immigration, business, labor, health and education.

I also had the honor of having lunch with the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan on July 9, 2012. Upon asking who his mentors are, I learned that his parents and a friend from his childhood still influence him the most. His parents stressed the importance of education. His childhood friend is a basketball player. It has been evident that Arne Duncan continues to love the sport. He played Basketball during his college years and still plays with opponents such as President Barack Obama. The highlight of the day was when I told Arne Duncan that I will have his job someday, and he said to give him four more years.

The Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series at the Department of Ed were phenomenal! One of the highlight moments for me was when Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012, visited and sang a song to the young audience. Other guests included two-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton.

My visits to the White House were always unique. My visits included a tour, an information session, a meeting, and bowling! Having the opportunity to bowl at the Truman Bowling Alley was priceless.

Living in the DMV area also gave me the opportunity to visit monuments such as the Washington Monument, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Capitol Building. I also had the ability to visit the Smithsonian Museums, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ben’s Chili Bowl; unfortunately, only the Obama family and Cosby family are allowed to eat for free.

After this summer experience and as a junior at BC, I am thrilled to know that my education work will continue as a student at the Lynch School of Education.

RealInternships: Jieun Park

An ordinary day does not exist in the inpatient psychiatric unit at the Children’s Hospital, otherwise known as Bader 5. Each one of the patients that come into this unit is very different and unique, and there isn’t a day where I don’t learn something new from these patients. Although all of them suffer from some sort of psychiatric and/or physical illness, it is incredible to see the optimism they bring, and to experience their growing motivation to get better.

Our main activity room, where the patients are in for most of the day. This room holds important groups like goals group, arts and crafts, medical education group, spirituality group, etc.

Side view of the activity room.

Patients that have stayed in Bader 5 for an extended period of time are given the option of painting a ceiling board. These are just two of many encouraging finished projects patients have done.

Throughout the week, the diverse team of social workers, recreational therapists, occupational therapists, milieu staff and the interns work together to create a schedule for the patients to participate in a variety of therapeutic activities. These therapy groups are held with the purpose of providing patients with a way to develop coping skills for themselves. There is a diverse range of the types of groups Bader 5 offers, including music therapy, arts and crafts, sensory group, goals group, and more. As an intern, I am responsible for actively participating in these groups, at times leading the groups, and even thinking of new ideas for therapeutic groups. At Bader 5, you never really know what is going to happen next, a group might get cancelled or a staff member might not be able to lead the group. So another part of our job is to be able to think quickly on our feet. It is important to take advantage of any opportunity we have to provide the patients with a possible coping strategy in these groups. As interns, I have found that it can be much easier for the patients to relate to us because we are so much closer in age. Being able to listen and provide just another ear for them to talk to has become part of the daily routine as well.

This was my first individual project for the unit. I created a poster that provides visual help for patients to know what wellness group is, and to understand the importance of mindfulness.

This is the outcome of my first therapy group session that I ran recently. It was called the Happiness puzzle, where the patients each had a piece of the puzzle to make a collage of whatever made them happy. We then pieced the whole puzzle together to create this outcome.

Every morning at Bader 5, we use this gym to hold the wellness group. Every patient sits on a yoga mat and we do different things to wake up our minds and bodies each day. Activities range from yoga, to dance and to just simple relaxation.

Being on this unit, I found, can be very emotionally straining at times. The patients’ traumatic experiences have extremely tangible and visible consequences in their lives. Recently a 10-year old boy with a history of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, with PTSD (Post traumatic stress syndrome), with a behavioral disorder had been admitted. He has been extremely difficult to handle and has needed redirection multiple times throughout the day. Being able to fully care for him and keep catering to his needs has been difficult. However I think that what this internship teaches me is to continue to be patient and to realize that it’s not these kids fault that they struggle with these issues. Patients are admitted and discharged frequently, and it is heartbreaking to see exactly what these kids have experienced. There are a ton of cases of suicidal ideation, eating disorders, sexual or physical abuse and more. Although it can be discouraging to know that so many children have experienced such traumatic things, it is also a very hopeful experience as well. To know that I am part of what can be seen as a safe haven for these kids and their journey to overcome their struggles.

RealInternships: Sonia Felicia Garcia

“You are going on a border tour.” These words could not have sounded anymore comical than they did to me, a native El Pasoan. I had been born and raised in El Paso leaving only for the occasional school trips and family vacations, that is until I finally departed for college. I had driven passed the border so many times since childhood and then as I drove myself around exploring my own freedom of young adulthood. I had stopped noticing the flickering glimpses of homes, buses, and people living on the other side of the fence on my commute. They were all a part of the usual landscape. “Surely I know a thing or two about the border.” I thought to myself. I could not have been more wrong.

On Scenic Drive overlooking Downtown El Paso and the Sierra Madre in Ciudad Juárez; Photo taken by Ali Boyd, Las Americas Border Servant Corps. Volunteer.

Although I lived on the U.S.-Mexico border, I had always reserved a detached fascination for Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. As the sister city of El Paso I loved visiting my great aunts and uncles, I knew a bit of history, and I regarded Juárez’s historical influence on El Paso vital to my perception of my hometown heritage and identity. Sure, I did not know much about Juárez or Mexico’s political landscape or infrastructure, but the close proximity and natural ease of a bi-cultural city’s shared language, values, and food soothed me. El Paso was home and home included the border. Still, I never developed a strong identification to Juárez or Mexico as a whole. Las Americas remedied this fact.

Las Americas T-Shirt worn by one of the interns at a protest against the killing on an unarmed Mexican teenager by border patrol officers two years ago / Photo taken by Ali Boyd, Las Americas Border Servant Corps. Volunteer.

Determined by the location of my grandparents’ homes, I did not have the same upbringing as my parents. Back when homeland security was not tangled up with immigration, my family moved fluidly between El Paso and Juárez. Not seen as an international voyage, with long border crossing wait-times, and plumes of smog hovering over idling cars, proper documentation, and the assertion of American Sir, but a trip to see loved ones. My mom and dad knew the ins and outs of Juárez like the lines on the back of their hands. Weekly visits to their grandparents house, dinners of delicious traditional Mexican food, and later going out with their cousins to the movies. No, my grandparents lived in El Paso and my weekly visits required less than a five minute drive. I identify as Mexican-American while I am simply American to my Mexican second cousins.

First day of Orientation / Photo taken by Ali Boyd, Las Americas Border Servant Corps. Volunteer.

After two days of orientation the five of us sat scrunched together on a courthouse bench. Still a little more than strangers, a mix of native El Pasoans and inquisitive visitors we were asked if we wanted to attend training on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or SIJS at the El Paso County Courthouse. Brimming with curiosity we accepted the invitation. SIJS, VAWA, U-Visa, BIWJ, CAT- all terms that were as mystifying as they were common place at Las Americas.  I had not even the slightest clue what any of it meant. I had spent the better part of the past three days absorbing my surroundings and dashing to my laptop for an immediate Google search of any unfamiliar terms.

Border fence at Mile Marker 357. This is where Sunland Park, NM and Anapra, a poor coloñia, or neighborhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez meet, separated only by the fence shown. / Left Picture Insert: On our tour we spoke to children from one of the households seen in the background.

As we sat at the courthouse, Ali Las Americas Border Servant Corps. volunteer cheerfully announced “You are going on a border tour.” Toured we did. Although I scoffed at the idea of taking a border tour, I now recognize my first day at the courthouse and the following tour as a pivotal moment in my career plans and perception of immigration. Guilty of the mainstream American perception on immigration, I thought immigration in El Paso was distinctly Mexican, given that the city is 85% Latino. Wrong again! El Paso may receive hundreds of authorized and unauthorized border crossings a day, but not all of the individuals crossing into El Paso were of Mexican descent. Ali calls El Paso the “epicenter of immigration” most often a corridor where hopeful immigrants are detained by border and customs on their way to their final destination. On my second day at Las Americas my previous ideas of immigration was challenged when an individual dressed in colorful patterns walked in. Fatima as we will call her, had won Asylum a few months before and was soon to be on her way to family in another state. She had come to say her goodbyes to the Las Americas staff who helped her. After hugs and joyous tears she left and I had been told her story. My heart broke that day.

Fatima was an asylum seeker originally from Somalia. Her family lived in dire poverty in a displaced person’s camp and her father was disabled. Fatima and her brother sold water in front of their home to help provide for the family when a group of men approached her and her brother. Initially leaving after asking for her clan name, she came from an ethnic minority with no protection in her country, the men returned to kidnap her. Her brother intervened and was murdered in front of her and she was knocked unconscious. Saved by neighbors her attackers fled and so did Fatima. Living in hiding until money could be saved.  She made her way through Russia and Cuba, eventually entering Mexico. She made it to the U.S.-Mexico border in Juárez and asked for asylum. Held in detention for almost two years in El Paso she was granted humanitarian asylum based on past persecution and significant harm.

Sadly, the reality is that stories like Fatima are all too common and yet it is frustratingly difficult to grant any type of relief or aid to people who are escaping all types of atrocities and have reasonable fear for their life. Certain death, rape, domestic violence, poverty, gender violence, gang and drug violence, the list goes on and on and yet despite the need and desperation of these people, current immigration law makes few allowances. Despite the popular perception of immigrants as criminals illegally entering the U.S. the truth is, these people are fleeing for their lives. Factors such as geo-politics prevents individuals from countries with affiliation with the U.S. from ever entering the U.S. as refugees. Even with the current violence in Juárez and Mexico with the drug cartels and daily executions, a murder rate higher than that in Afghanistan, is not sufficient grounds under U.S. immigration law for asylum.

On Scenic Drive overlooking Downtown El Paso and the Sierra Madre in Ciudad Juárez. / Photo taken by Ali Boyd, Las Americas Border Servant Corps. Volunteer.

Some days are more challenging than others. The office is a strange dichotomy of sorrow and jubilation. Just this week some of the law clerks and interns went to visit a client of ours in detention only to find out several hours later that he had been deported a few days before. No one was notified. When the SCOTUS struck down provision of the Arizona “Show me your papers” bill the office held its breath and shouted then with laughter when President Obama announced his support of deferred action for Dreamers. I have pulled my hair out in frustration and cried tears of accomplishment when I finally popped the two grant proposals I had been writing in the mail. Stories of abject brutality and bravery are everyday occurrences but victories such as helping a client be released from detention provide our work with conviction.

Attending an Immigration conference at New Mexico State University, touring Annunciation house- a house offering shelter and services to immigrants, discussing ethics at an Introduction to Federal Practice at the Federal Courthouse, and relaxing with Las Americas staff at the Paso del Notre Salsa night to keep sane have all been experiences that have broadened my understanding of immigration policy and developed an even greater appreciation for El Paso’s unique location, flavor and history with Ciudad Juárez. And, of course watching the Lincoln Lawyer wonderfully tied in information gathered at the Federal courthouse with the guilty pleasure of watching an action-packed movie.

Las Americas 2012 Summer Interns and Law Clerks; taken in front of the Las Americas Mural.

Even as a native El Pasoan I realize there are many things I did not know about the border or immigration. One thing I do know for certain is best said through the words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe,“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
My work at Las Americas has been as joyous and it has been heart breaking, but through this experience I have uncovered my calling. I have fallen in love with immigration and family law and I have fallen in love with the border.

RealInternships: David Lam

My experience at my internship “DanceOn” has been amazing. Coming into this internship understanding the grunt work a Production Assistant would endure, I expected the worse and hoped for the best. Living up to those standards has made this internship one to remember.

As a small start up company with a short staff, they needed all the help they can get. Immediately, I was put in the edit suite given videos to edit right off the bat to be uploaded via YouTube. This was what I wanted to do, edit videos and pick up tricks in editing, learning first hand from those who have been in the busy for a while. At this internship in the past couple weeks, I have met famous YouTube stars, celebrities and have been on the set of “So You Think You Can Dance” and also attended a launch party for a new reality TV show soon to premiere on Oxygen “All The Right Moves”. This whole experience has been surreal but I have been taking this opportunity in stride and making the best of it.

Here are some of the videos I helped edit at my internship:

The most challenging experience I would I have to say would be editing each new project I receive because through all the footage I obtain, I have to turn all these miscellaneous clips to portray and transcend a message/story. I cannot universally edit all the projects the same way so its been challenging to compile an hours worth of footage into a 3-5 minute video that tells everything.

As far as memorable moments, it’s hard to say because there are so many. Doing a shoot at Malibu Beach and watching the sunset over the horizon. Interviewing the contestants at “So You Think You Can Dance” and also working on a video that went viral on YouTube. So it’s difficult to narrow to one memorable moment since they all have been memorable.

Real Internships: Emil Tsao

In my last blog post, I wrote briefly about some of the projects that I am working on for ERIC, the Environmental Research and Innovation Center.  One of those projects, the ERIC online store, has been taking the majority of my time and I would like to talk about my experience getting the store up and running.

When I started with ERIC in the beginning of June, the online store was in its infant stages.  My director Nathan Havey and I set out some preliminary goals for what we wanted to accomplish on the store, and how many businesses we would aim to have by the end of my internship with ERIC.  We decided that we would set the goal of 25 businesses in Massachusetts and work from there.

The only problem was that I had no experience starting an online store, or even a list of businesses to contact, therefore, the first few weeks were spent trying to compile a list of every potential candidate for our store.  While there were some directories that listed sustainable businesses (the most helpful were GoGreenWebDirectory.com and the Sustainable Business Leader Program), these lists were largely incomplete, and lacked many of the sustainably minded companies in the Boston area, particularly the small indie businesses.

I figured that the best way to network and discover these businesses might be social media, so I used Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs to help me find these companies and make some initial contact with them.  As a sociology major, I enthusiastically found a number of informal social networks that came about due to a shared passion for local and sustainable business.  These unofficial networks on Twitter were visible through regular communication between the same types of businesses, and constant support, even if it was as simple as mentioning another business in a tweet, or recommending other people to follow another business.

Using these networks, I was able to begin conversations with a number of businesses, a few of which are on the store today.  Those that could not be on the store, for one reason or another, were still helpful and supportive of the idea of an online store dedicated to local and sustainable products.

My point is that social media has allowed like-minded businesses, not just people, to socialize in an open forum.  It was perfect for me, because I was able to tap into these Boston sustainable networks and reach out to them about ERIC via my personal Twitter account.  Every conversation I have had with businesses has been open, candid, and helpful in understanding the Boston market.  I am still in the process of adding businesses to the store, but thus far it has been a rewarding experience.  I invite everyone to check out the upcoming ERIC Store at www.ericstore.myshopify.com and chat me up on Twitter @gentsao.  Thanks!