Alexandra Brockman ’20 creates a safe, educational, accepting environment for refugee children at World Relief in Chicago, IL

Hey there! My name is Alex Brockman and I am a rising senior English major. This summer I am interning for World Relief Chicago’s Youth Services department. World Relief is a worldwide non-profit organization that works to provide services for refugees, immigrants, and victims of natural disaster through a wide range of services. The Chicago branch of World Relief, where I am working, offers services such as education, employment counseling, and health advising for refugees living in Chicago and legal counsel for immigrants seeking asylum.

During my internship I have been working under Daniel Kelsey, the Youth Services coordinator along with three other interns. For the month of June, we did over twenty visits to the homes of families to administer an ESL test for all of the kids who participate in World Relief programming. What I really enjoyed about each of these visits was getting to know the families I am working with for the summer and learning about each other through sharing food and conversation. Through these visits it became clear to me how much of this job is about creating relationships as my boss has gotten to know the names and lives each family and is even included in family events such as graduations and holiday celebrations. The mindset of mutual learning, exchange and appreciation became clear when on my second day of work my fellow interns, boss and I were invited to attend Eid meals at two family’s homes for the end of Ramadan. Additionally, during the month of June I helped to register upcoming Kindergartners at their new schools, a process which can be frustrating and challenging due to the many rules and regulations, especially when English isn’t your primary language. Although I did not speak the first languages of the parents I was assisting, I hope that by giving extra support and acting as an advocate for the family, I made the process just a little bit easier. Me and my fellow interns also worked to create a schedule for the Summer Learning Program which we are helping to run throughout the months of July and August.

As I write this I am about to begin the third week of the Summer Learning Program which is a free day camp for World Relief Families and other local refugee children. Between thirty and forty kids come to the camp each day ranging in ages between six and fifteen. Each day I prepare for the camp at the office by writing case notes for each child and collecting all of the necessary equipment. Later, I walk to pick up eight kids from their homes and bring them to the building where the camp is held. A variety of fun and educational activities are organized from art projects to sports and reading time. For the majority of the day I work with a group of awesome and silly first and second grade girls. The kids always keep me laughing and I think I have played more tag in the last two weeks than I have in my whole life. Some other highlights of the week include a big soccer game between all of the youth programs run by refugee resettlement agencies in Chicago and a weekly field trip to places around the city such as the beach or the zoo. There are four weeks remaining of the camp and I’m excited to get to know the kids in other groups better and playing some more Duck, Duck, Goose.

Looking back, this internship is certainly not what I expected it to be, but it has far exceeded my expectations. I have often been surprised at the level responsibility and agency I have been given as I had expected to be doing more filing and busy work. My internship often doesn’t feel like work as I have got to spend a lot of time enjoying the company of my campers and their families and play goofy games, but I also try to remind myself that it is an important responsibility to help create a safe, educational, and inclusive space for kids during a transformational time in their lives. I have learned so much and l know that this experience will be invaluable as I continue to explore work in the social services and working with kids.

Experiences like Alexandra Brockman’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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