People Power

My internship – James Lawler

People matter. I’ve now finished my work with Refugees International Japan, but when James Lreflecting on my three months as an intern, the most striking aspect was the people – both those I worked for and those I worked with.

As a non-profit organisation charged with assisting refugees and internally-displaced people across the globe, the beneficiaries of our projects are the core of RIJ’s mission. In preparing a media campaign for this year’s World Refugee Day, I gained intimate insights into the lives of three beneficiaries of RIJ programs: Khayal from Pakistan, Hellen from Uganda and Ana from Colombia (and you can read their stories in the blog posts below).

Despite the horrendous circumstances that forced them to flee their homes, be that the loss of family members or threats of violence, each woman displayed not only an incredible resilience, but also a passionate desire to rebuild their lives and those of their families and communities, using whatever resources were available to them. Concurrently, as an organisation, RIJ’s work is driven by the principle of empowerment – our projects support refugees to re-take control of their own lives and recover from their experiences, rather than leaving them dependent on our aid. Thus, although our ultimate goal is a world in which RIJ is no longer necessary, our strength lies in supporting our beneficiaries to rebuild, and we are in turn enriched by the willingness of the people we assist to tell us precisely how we can help.

However, I was also strongly impacted upon by the staff I worked with. People do all sorts of jobs for all sorts of reasons, including financial gain, career advancement and personal satisfaction. Yet, having volunteered for various NGOs over the past few years, I’ve learnt that the overriding purpose for so many who work in the non-profit sector is the simple but powerful desire to make a difference, and to leave the world in a better place than when they found it. Working with RIJ meant working with others from all walks of life, and from both Japan and across the world – but all are united by a common cause, and their passion to assist refugees (and high-quality professionalism in which they do so) left me both invigorated and deeply humbled.

While my time in Japan is over, my work in the non-profit sector is not (as I shall soon travel to Cambodia to work in improving sexual health). However, my memories and lessons from the people I met through RIJ shall remain with me, and for that I am truly grateful.”


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