Internship Experience, Spring 2017:
My experience interning at RIJ has been invaluable, as a future immigration attorney. At RIJ I obtained the unique perspective (through the eyes of a funding non-profit organization) of seeing what happens after someone has fled his or her country as a refugee or been displaced within his or her country as an internally displaced person (IDP). Once this happens, it’s organizations like RIJ that step up and try to provide resources to make an impossibly difficult situation bearable.
RIJ, and its staff consistently emphasize that refugees and IDPs could be anyone, and are people from diverse backgrounds and professions. For that reason, RIJ’s mission had a tremendous impression on me. RIJ’s mission is to restore dignity to refugees and IDPs by funding programs that enable them to get back on their feet. For example, providing Syrian school children with the tools necessary to go to school in order have a bit of normalcy in their young lives or providing skills training for urban refugees in Nairobi to empower them to be able to provide for themselves once again.
At RIJ, I was able to see how organizations both large and small can have tremendous impacts on refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Of course, that comes after an incredible amount of work. Work that at times seems unrewarding, asking for donations for example, or for the opportunity to speak to companies about the plight of refugees. Nonetheless, everyone passionately labors on because our efforts have a direct impact on the number of programs RIJ can fund, and thus increases the number of refugees and IDPs RIJ reaches.
While at RIJ, I was able to do some legal research on compliance in order to develop an efficient guide to help companies start a CSR relationship with RIJ. That research will hopefully increase the amount of sponsors, thus increasing the number of programs RIJ could fund.
With RIJ I was able to organize awareness and fundraising events. My favorite was “Compete to Empower-Quiz for a Cause” a pub quiz held at a local bar where participants got together to partake in a night of friendly competition and importantly teaching participants about the current state of refugees and IDPs.
At times, it was frustrating for me to not be able to dedicate more time to the mission of RIJ because there is an endless amount of work to be done to improve awareness of the status quo of refugees and IDPs, and to fundraise in order to help alleviate some of the troubles refugees and IDPs face. I am sad to be leaving this internship, but my advocacy for refugees and IDPs has only just begun. RIJ, and its beneficiaries have an ally in me for life. I am sincerely thankful to Jane, Sachiko-san, Anna, and all the other volunteers I had the pleasure of working with. I learned something from each of you. Importantly, my time at RIJ gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with refugee and IDP stories, making me appreciate that I have a home, an education, opportunities, and self-determination. Lessons I will not take advantage of and instead will use to empower others.
To conclude I would like to leave some tips for future interns at RIJ: consistently read, always learn, share your newly obtained knowledge, and make moves to help those in need. Your experience at RIJ is what you make it.
Best, Crystal Felix