During my time at Brandeis I have had the opportunity to take many classes dealing with social justice issues. However, the experience that stands out to me the most was my participation in Global Brigades. This Brandeis club was comprised of two main parts: education while on campus about the culture and history of Honduras and a service-learning trip to Honduras during February break. Along with other students, I had the opportunity to visit towns across Honduras and to see what daily life is like there. I got to talk with locals (including patients and medical and construction professionals) in the context of both medical clinics and within their own homes. Although this experience in no way allowed me to completely understand what life in Honduras is like, it allowed me to catch a glimpse of a life that was simultaneously very different and similar to my own.
This experience opened my eyes to what life is like in Honduras, a nation from which many individuals and families are currently emigrating. At my internship at Jewish Vocational Services, we assist recently arrived asylees, refugees, and other migrants (some of whom come from Central America and Honduras itself). On a daily basis, I have the privilege to meet one-on-one with individuals and families from all around the world. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with people from Somalia, India, El Salvador, Haiti and more through this internship. Although my experience abroad in Honduras in no way represents the experience of all the people that I have been able to meet through JVS, I believe that it has given me a way to better contextualize the situations that those I work with are coming out of and my place in their journey to the United States.
I think that it’s easy in this kind of work to get swept up in notions of America as a beacon of hope for people from across the world who will be greeted with a better life here in the United States. While I think that this can be true, it is easy for people to forget, myself included, about the individual lives of the people that we are trying to help. What people often fail to consider are the lives and often family that these people are leaving behind in coming to the United States, lives that they may not want to leave behind. I believe that my experience in Honduras allowed me to better understand the bad as well as the good parts of life in many countries where people are now seeking asylum.
I feel that this understanding has allowed me to better help our clients at JVS to find the jobs and lives in the U.S. that are best for them and their unique situations. If nothing else, it has allowed me to better empathize with all they have been through on their journey to establishing themselves and their families in the U.S. after having to leave their home country and to better contextualize how different yet similar their past experiences may have been.