This summer I was lucky enough to work for an organization that fights for the rights of refugees who, working alone, would have very slim chances of gaining asylum in the U.S. Before my internship at HRI, my knowledge of human rights abuses came from Model U.N. conferences and newspaper articles—needless to say, such horror stories, while shocking, never affected me as they did during my time here. Sitting in on client intakes or even trials in Immigration Court, I was exposed to first-hand accounts of persecution and escape from countries ranging from the DRC to Syria. Looking into a refugee’s eyes and hearing their translated account drew me in personally, and motivated me to complete even the most simple office tasks, knowing that in some small way, I was helping these refugees gain freedom and a more stable life.
My favorite part of working at HRI was witnessing how such a small staff can accomplish so much because of the passion and drive everyone here possesses. While I worked on various projects, from helping with an annual fundraising campaign to compiling a Resource Guide for client referrals, I learned a lot from each member of the staff as they patiently answered my endless questions on anything and everything—deferred action, grant writing, how to use the scanner. As my time here comes to a close, I want to thank everyone I worked with for allowing me to glimpse their day to day responsibilities; I’ve learned that this type of work is definitely not easy. Raising funds, translating documents, navigating cultural differences, filing briefs, arguing against government attorneys—all of these jobs are extremely complex. But human rights are simple. If I’ve learned anything from my internship it is that fighting for these basic human rights is easier said than done; I admire everyone at HRI as they quietly work every day in order to fight for the everyday freedoms many of us take for granted.