By Megan Day
In the summer of 2015, I interned with Catholic Charities of Indianapolis Refugee and Immigration Services program. My role was the Refugee Education and Acculturation Intern, a position that allowed me to have a wide variety experiences working with the refugee population in Indianapolis. It is quite difficult to describe the entire internship in one short post, but I’ll do my best!
The majority of my time working with Catholic Charities was spent teaching acculturation courses to newly arrived refugees. These courses covered a variety of topics about life in the United States, from laws, to public services, to communication, and transportation. My favorite part of these classes was the bus training, in which I taught the clients how to use the IndyGo public bus system. This allowed us to get out of the classroom and into the community, as well as allowed me to be creative in planning where to take the buses to. In addition, I was able to mentor a family of Burmese refugees each week in order to help them with their English skills. This was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship, as I developed a great connection with the family and loved watching them develop a passion for learning.
The staff at Catholic Charities did a wonderful job tailoring my internship for my own personal interests and academic goals. As an International Studies major, I of course am interested in world cultures. So while the majority of refugees in Indianapolis are from Myanmar, the Catholic Charities staff made sure that I had opportunities to work with refugees from other countries as well. For example, I worked with a family from Somalia, picked up an Iraqi refugee from the airport as she was first arriving in the US, as well as provided bus training to a couple from Afghanistan. In addition, I was invited to attend the World Refuge Day celebration held at the Catholic Center, which provided a variety of international food and the guest speaker was a former UN peacekeeper, which of course was exciting for me, as I am interested in International Organizations. It was an interesting way to see how local organizations related to the larger global context and experience a variety of cultures in just one night. I really appreciated this organization’s wiliness to adapt the internship to my interests; it made my experience not only interesting, but also useful for my own academic and career goals.
It is hard to summarize what I’ve taken away from this experience briefly. Although I was only a part-time intern, I experienced so much and met so many wonderful people. The clients were all so grateful for Catholic Charities’ help and most of my favorite memories from this summer were the conversations I had with refugee families. And I can’t express enough how great the staff was as well. Although I was rarely in the office, whenever I had a chance to interact with Catholic Charities staff, I could really tell they were all so passionate about the refugee community. It was so cool to see just how much the staff loved helping the refugee populations in Indianapolis, as well as witnessing just how incredibly dedicated they were to the cause. I am so appreciative of this opportunity to work with such amazing people.
I think my biggest take away from this experience was that I realized just how much I love helping others and seeing them experience moments of pure joy. I loved the moments where I saw the clients get so excited about their new lives in the United States and knowing that I could do something (even if it was just a small action) in order to help them experience that feeling. And I don’t want to sugarcoat anything here, as their lives are still difficult despite the fact that they have migrated to the US. The obstacles they face here don’t even compare to any sort of “problems” I thought I had before. And beyond that, the clients I worked with shared just a few tidbits of their stories, and it was so hard for me to even imagine going through the injustices that they faced. It has been quite the humbling experience, and it has made me realize that I think I would feel guilty if I did not use my privilege to help others. This experience has given me an increased drive to do what I believe is right, and has inspired me so much. I really could go on and on about my summer internship, due to how much I have done, how many people I’ve met, how much I have learned, and how inspired I have become. And so I’m sad it is over, but I am so glad I at least had the opportunity to intern with Catholic Charities.
(Megan Day is a member of the Butler University Class of 2016, an International Studies and Political Science Major)