Minor: Poverty and human capability
Why did you apply for this particular internship?
I applied for the development position at RRISA due to my desire to some day run my own nonprofit organization and in the hopes of better understanding the work that is being done to help refugees.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L?
Refugees' hardships are a mixture between issues relating to poverty and politics. The core of my education at Washington and Lee has been based in better understanding the effects of poverty on society, as well as the role that government plays in eradicating the causes of poverty.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience?
I did not expect to be so needed within an organization that has over two dozen employees. I really felt that every effort I was making was a significant contribution to the agency and their clients.
Post-Graduation Plans: I intend to go directly to law school after undergrad and continue my work of helping crime victims pursue justice.Favorite W&L Memory: Too hard to just pick one
Favorite Class: The Effects of Poverty on the Family and Child
Favorite W&L Tradition: Speaking Tradition
Above: Refugees from RRISA sell hand woven goods through the Threads of Promise program.
Jasmine Jimenez is a politics major with a minor in poverty and human capability studies from Chicago, Ill. As a Shepherd Alliance intern, she worked at Refugee, Resettlement, and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), an organization which provides direct services to refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking and immigrants, as well as to encourages community involvement in world refugee issues.
This summer, I fulfilled my Shepherd Alliance Internship at the Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA). RRISA is an agency that helps refugees, immigrants and victims of human trafficking build new lives in America by providing them with housing, food and employment services. Most of RRISA's clients are refugees from Bhutan, Burma and Iraq. Every year RRISA resettles approximately 800 refugees.
On the first day of work my supervisor, Leanne, told me that there was no such thing as an ordinary day at RRISA because every day brought new challenges. My primary obligations as the development intern were to write thank you letters, research grants and help organize fundraisers. In addition to receiving my regularly assigned responsibilities, I was asked to perform unrelated tasks that had to be completed on a moment's notice. This was due to the fact that, like many nonprofits, RRISA was short staffed and operated on a deficit of office supplies. The other interns and I had to hunt for one of the handful of computers that were shared by everyone on staff. Consequently, I kept all the papers I needed on a clipboard so that I could easily take them with me as I hopped from desk to desk. Some days I had to use two or three different computers. The office space was small and crowded with clients and staff.
I did not expect very much interaction with the clients, since my primary obligation was to raise money. However, RRISA was flexible with issuing my assignments, since they were running low on employees. One day, Leanne asked me to cover the front desk during a time when RRISA's voicemail system was down. I received a five-minute training session on how to transfer calls, schedule appointments and record messages. Then I was left on my own to oversee a room filled with immigrants and refugees while the phone rang non-stop. My major concern was thinking that if I did not do everything within my power to serve all of our clients, then there would be dire consequences for the clients and their families. Fortunately, with the help of some of the other staff members I was able to help all the clients that came into the office.
My experience at RRISA made me aware of the tough decisions nonprofits have to make in order to keep their doors open and provide services for their clients. The staff's qualities, such as flexibility, perseverance and dedication, compensated for their lack of funding. More than anything, I will remember the refugees and their stories of hope in the mist of devastation. I intend to continue to educate myself on international issues, in order to advocate for the services refugees need both here and abroad.