Doing an internship at RIJ was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I had as a college student because it was an eye-opener and in some ways altered how I perceive the world. Being from the United States and then living comfortably for almost 7 years in Japan
has, in a way, made me forget that the majority of people living on this planet are suffering from poverty, disease, malnutrition, displacement and other unfortunate conditions. At RIJ, I was somewhat brought back down to earth as during my internship I had to study or research countries that had something to do with the outflow of refugees or the inflow of refugees. This type of work helped me understand that 1) the problems that refugees face are more serious than people may realize, 2) I am blessed to have a decent life and 3) those who are blessed with a decent life should try to help those who are less fortunate. For the most part, the situation with refugees is complicated and probably will take some time to properly fix even if help increases. Problems that have been created due to the history of colonisation, political disputes, and wars, will need to be addressed and fixed first in order to achieve true international peace and order.
I personally think that nobody on earth deserves to live miserably, especially considering that there are enough available resources to supply every single living human being on earth with the necessities required to live properly. The reason why this is not being done is another story for another time, but RIJ is doing what it can to alleviate the situation by funding projects geared towards improving the lives of refugees. For example, a project supporting older people, persons with disabilities and widowed IDPs living in off-camp locations in Peshawar District provided water, sanitation, health care, and psychosocial services to 600 families. Altogether, thousands of people benefited from the provision of hygiene kits, hygiene awareness promotion, and sensitivity and advocacy training in this project. This was a good project because it shows that RIJ not only cares about helping refugees, but also internally displaced persons as their lives matters as well.
I do not know what comes to people’s minds when they think about refugees, but I think most people never really clearly examine what they may have to go through. Being an intern at RIJ and having talks with Jane Best, the president of RIJ, I was able to learn about the experience of a refugee more in depth. Refugees rarely have the chance to make plans for their departure. Usual activities such as packing their belongings, and saying farewell to friends and families do not really happen for refugees as most refugees have to flee without prior notice, taking with them only the clothes on their backs and whatever their two hands can carry. Refugees often have little idea about where they are going, which may lead to bigger problems. Refugees do not know where they will end up and they may not be accepted with open arms. This also make makes it difficult for them to prepare physically and psychologically for a new life in a different place. A large portion of refugees experience severe trauma and some are even tortured upon entering a new country, region, or area. Jane Best often says, “These refugees are people just like you and me and they deserve to be treated as such.” I could not agree more and doing an internship at RIJ really focuses on the fact that refugees are people in unfortunate circumstances, but their quality of life still matters. This is why my heart aches for these people because there is so much work that needs to be done to try to help rebuild the lives of refugees, but I feel as though not enough work is being done by people who have the power to make things rights, which is unacceptable. Of course, RIJ, and many other organisations are doing its part to help ease the burden of refugees around the world, but quoting Jane Best once again, “The point is not to be in business forever because that means the problem is not being solved.” Therefore to truly solve this problem a stronger global effort by governments concerning refugees needs to take place.
To shed more light on my position at RIJ, I started on September 3rd, 2014 and Jane Best gave me rundown on what type of work RIJ does. Basically, RIJ is an independent, nonprofit organisation based in Tokyo and since its founding in 1979, RIJ has been committed to raising funds in Japan and working on projects to help support refugees around the world. At RIJ, interns and volunteers are highly valued and each may have their own significant role. I think Jane Best tries to figure out the strong points of the intern or volunteer and go from there. Due to having to go school, I could not be at RIJ everyday and I could not really commit to a big project, such as a recent event that involved a concert called, Light Up the Life of a Refugee Child. The concert seemed very interesting and I very much wanted to help out organising it, but I understood that it required constant commitment. To help me balance between handling my schoolwork and my internship, Jane Best had me do country profiles, summarisation of visits to RIJ-funded projects, and translations. Most of the work I did at RIJ
required much research, which I think is suitable for a college student. For example, the country profiles contains information about a certain country that either has a large refugee population within its borders or outside its borders. The point of country profiles is to inform the reader about important, need-to-know facts that will help connect him/her with what the refugees are going through in those countries. With every country profile, you will see that refugees go through different types of turmoil, but for the most part, the overall experience for most refugees is the same as they have been forced to flee from troubling circumstances.
As I expressed to Jane Best during the interview she had with me, I am very interested in doing civil work and helping out people who are in need of help once I graduate college. My time at RIJ placed things in perspective as the desire to help people is a good thing, but I was also reminded that the world is plagued full of problems and there is no guarantee that these problems will ever be solved. This does not discourage me, but encourages me to continue learning. As the old adage says, “knowledge is power” and I believe that the more people learn about the true stories of refugees and displaced members of society that more people will want to help. This is what RIJ is doing now. Spreading the word and getting involved in projects that makes a difference in many refugees’ life. Come to think of it, RIJ’s funds is limited, which restricts how much can be done. For a refugee who had his/her life stolen and unfairly forced from society, the only true way to fully assist these refugees is to give them back the life they once knew before the difficulty. Surely the projects that RIJ funds do not provide that amount of assistance, but that is not really the point. What really matters, in terms of the support that is coming from RIJ, is the power of giving, no matter the amount. Jane Best has personally traveled to some of these areas where refugees are living and even though these people have been through much anguish, the projects that RIJ funds puts a smile on many of the refugees’ faces and places joy in their hearts. Just putting the message out there to refugees that there are people who care about them, that they have not been forgotten, and that they matter as much as anybody else is one of the goals at RIJ. Therefore being an intern at RIJ has been very enlightening and at times emotional, but I am very appreciative of the experience.