A reflection from Melanie Williams on her experience working with Community Refugee & Immigration Services.
Although many of my responsibilities at CRIS involve buying household items, ordering mattresses, scheduling furniture bank appointments, and organizing the donation room, my favorite moments are personal interactions with recently arrived refugees. I love when a client smiles at me just because they recognize me from driving them to an appointment and I have become a familiar face. I love accepting an offer of tea in a client’s new apartment after we return from a long wait at the social security office. I love hearing stories about life in Kabul, Baghdad, South Africa, and wherever our clients call home.
I feel lucky to know and work with so many people from across the globe, and am daily challenged by our diverse staff at CRIS. Many of our caseworkers are refugees themselves, having arrived in the U.S. anywhere between one and twenty years ago. I’ve learned a lot about patience and how to love and care for clients well from my coworkers. Having such a diverse office staff makes for lively days and so much great food. I love when a coworker sits down at my desk with a plate of Somali food and insists, “Eat with me. Enjoy. I hate to eat alone.”
There are definitely difficult days, like when we get notice that a family of ten is arriving in a week’s time and we have to find housing for them immediately, but I’ve always felt supported by the CRIS staff when things get stressful in the office. I am thankful for what I have learned so far, the experience in non-profit social work that I’ve gained, and the friendships I’ve made working at CRIS.