After a week of working in Richmond, we finally managed to get internet in our house and I am able to really start this blog. We (Shannon, Yi, and myself) have been looking forward to today all week! Myself, Yi and Angelica (who lives with the four other interns at the other Shepherd house in Richmond) all work at Commonwealth Catholic Charities within the Refugee and Immigration Services. I work as a resettlement aid and in office support (marketing, PR, development, accounting, w/e they need done). I also get to visit families who arrived recently and see what they need, help set up apartments before they arrive, go grocery shopping with them, and I signed up to teach ESL. Visiting the families and watching an ESL class has already been a paradigm shifting experience. More to come about this later though….
Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC), is a large community and human services non-profit in the central Virginia area and part of the Catholic Church’s ministry. Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS) is just one of their services provided. RIS and CCC actually just merged together last year but I do not know what they were before that, although they were still a catholic charity I believe. The state department (working with the UNHCR) basically sends “cases” of refugees, immigrants, asylees their direction and provides them with some funds to do the work. Other sources of funding are grants (outside of those form the government) and other private donations. They also run off of a lot of “in kind” donations (clothes, food, furniture, etc.) and volunteers providing services. The Refugee and Immigration floor of the building is decorated with so many interesting pictures, signs, and facts about and of refugees and different cultures. My favorite though is actually on the main floor of CCC and it is a quote by Wade Davis on a poster which says,
“The world in which you are born is just one model of reality… Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you, they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”
I glanced at this the very first day while we sat anxiously for the volunteer coordinator to show us around. I have thought about its truth all week, particularly in relation to the families I have met. This week we introduced a Burmese family to Wal-Mart. I don’t know how they felt about it because I do not speak their language (Yi has been awesome at translating for us) and they looked a little overwhelmed. I know they were disappointed the only shrimp available was frozen and expensive and shallots were so much more expensive than onions, but the son was having fun pushing the cart. They lived in such a different reality before and are now thrown into the land of super grocery stores and frozen foods. I always wonder what they are thinking, and admire their bravery.
There is so much more I could talk about an explain but I will save it all for other posts! Peace.
Find Rachel’s post on the Shepherd Alliance blog here.
Personal blog here.