Life Ain’t Fair!

I came in thinking I would be able to match each of the clients to a “main dentist.” That sounds great, doesn’t it? I personally think that all of the clients that the agency serves deserve the care that they need. I wanted for each client to at least receive a comprehensive exam and cleaning.

We often underestimate the importance of our oral health and visiting the dentist twice a year. Medical doctors are often seen as the more important ones, where dentists may sometimes be seen as not as qualified as medical doctors. It’s very evident in our society where dental and medical insurances are separate. Not one insurance covers both services.

However, as days and weeks passed, I was informed that it is not needed that each client has a main dentist. I could not wrap my head around that statement. My supervisor believes that a dentist is only needed when there is an emergency. “But what about the cleaning? What about the exam to determine if the client needs care?” I kept questioning to myself. For the weeks to come, I will definitely try to get this message across: “A comprehensive exam is needed at the very beginning that you start any procedure with a dentist. You cannot wait until you have unbearable pain that you go and seek a dentist. One should see a dentist once the service is available to you. Cleanings are needed every six months. Preventative care is as important as any other treatments like extractions and root canals. Preventative care is what prevents one from undergoing those painful experiences that everyone is scared of.” I hope that through this message, the agency aims to provide each client with the dental care that is needed and readily available.

However, I’ve learned that this social justice service of providing equal care to all may not seem as easy as it sounds. We took into consideration the cost and eligibility of receiving care. Medicaid has its limits, and so do the pockets of the clients. Transportation is also a huge burden for the clients. With an English language barrier, it is often difficult for the clients to explore what the land of their new life has to offer. Some of these clients live frugal lifestyles where for parents, spending $12 for school bus transportation for their children to attend school is hard to do. Considering all these factors of limited language skills, transportation, and money, it is hard for one to hope for these clients to access the different services that society can offer, including dental care. Thus, closing any gaps, whether for health care or education, is very difficult to achieve unless all of these factors and limitations are wiped out.

So far, I’ve been able to help with data entry into the server provided by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, review clients’ files so that the agency passes the monitoring sessions, contact many insurance companies and dental clinics, and develop a curriculum based on oral health techniques and resources. The work I have done is very diverse in its nature. I have been able to get a taste of the different services offered to the refugees and the inside workings of the agency. Something that I now know that I wish I had known earlier would be the different insurance plans and the benefits that come with each. There are so many different plans, with each having different eligibility requirements and benefits.

For anyone that would like to come and volunteer or intern with the Refugee Services of Texas, I highly recommend and encourage doing so. Interning at the agency has given me different world-views and reality checks. I advise those who are interested to be open-minded and welcoming to all. There is so much to learn here. Be able to understand and withstand any changes to your plan of action.

Looking Within

My experience at this service center has been rewarding. The files of the clients will be monitored as part of a mandatory procedure applicable for nonprofit organizations. As such, I have been reviewing files, ensuring that all proper paperwork and signatures are included. Page by page, I scan to make sure all necessary information is in included.

Seeing the faces of this vulnerable population encourages me to come daily to give and provide all that I have. Their faces inspire me to do as much as I can to ensure that they feel welcomed and cared for. Some clients require extra care, particularly medical care. Unfortunately, not all of the clients are in the best shape in terms of health. Reading over their health conditions enlighten me to the inequity of healthcare across the world. Perhaps many of these conditions could have been prevented against early on by early doctor’s visit or hygiene. Now, I am concentrating my attention on finding information about the different insurance plans that these clients have, and the benefits that they receive.

Through my experiences here at the Houston Service Center, I have become more flexible and open-minded. An article here recommends how to increase workplace flexibility. It is common for me to be working on one thing, and then be asked to help someone do another thing. This requires flexibility, seeing that one has to be able to aid others in times of emergency. Additionally, I have become more open-minded as I must be able to accept changes to protocol and procedures. These skills are applicable not only at Brandeis but in daily life. Events such as constantly changing protocol and positions are inevitable. Thus, I see that these skills allow me to maneuver through times of distress in an educational and professional setting.

In a medical setting, flexibility is key as patients and their families may want different things at different times. I also must be familiar with flexibility understanding that in a medical and science setting, I should be able to help my colleagues in addition to serving my patients. Medicine heavily involves interconnectedness, and as such all contributors must be able to remain flexible, and of course, open-minded. Being open-minded in science works in the same way, whether the health care provider to a patient and his/her’s family or to another health care provider. To read more about the benefits of open-mindedness, please see this attached article.

So far, I believe that these skills I have continued to hold and use throughout my time here at the Service Center has given me a time to witness more than I expected. I have sensed that my efficiency has given me an edge at reviewing files quickly yet precisely and thoroughly. I have been able to associate with my co-workers who were once refugees themselves, refugee clients, and people who are really passionate about serving the underserved populations. I look forward to learning more from this experience which will benefit me in my last year at Brandeis, my education post-Brandeis, and my life as a professional.

Resettlement and Placement Services

The overall social justice goal of my internship organization, the Refugee Services of Texas-Houston Service Center, is to build and foster a welcoming environment for all vulnerable populations, including refugees, asylees, individuals with Special Immigrant Visas, Cuban-Haitian entrants, Central American minors, and survivors of human trafficking. The many services these clients receive during the 90-day period help them to become integrated within the American lifestyle. After this 90-day period, clients may choose to apply for additional support if necessary.

A monitoring tool that allows for us to check whether each file of a client contains all the necessary documents.


Based off of my experiences from the past week, I have witnessed the continuous care and support that the employees of the non-profit invest. Whether in the office making phone calls and writing case notes, or out on the road transporting clients to apply for benefits, all employees and interns work together to serve the clients’ needs. It all begins even before the clients arrive to the United States. People from the agency work hard to search for a vacant apartment, find the best electricity provider, and prepare all documents in order for admittance into the States to go smoothly. Once arrived, the clients are situated into their furnished apartments and the 90-day process begins. For more information about the first 90-day period, click here. During this period, the agency helps the clients to apply for a social security number, enroll into ESL classes, find employment opportunities, receive medical insurance and federal assistance, provide monetary assistance, amongst many more.

Clients who enroll into one service lead to further services. All of the services are required and are outlined in each client’s file. Case managers, employees who are directly responsible for the clients, are required to meet deadlines assigned in regards to the different services that the clients must receive. What progress looks like in this scenario is when, by the 90-day period, the clients become self-sufficient and are able to live on their own, and are employed. Very few of the clients who are able to be employed are unable to find employment. If you are interested in connecting refugee with employment opportunities, please visiting this link. This demonstrates how successful the agency is at getting the clients integrated into the American lifestyle.


However, many of the clients who come to the United States know little to no English. Although the clients are enrolled in ESL services, I would like to see how the clients have improved their English skills. This pertains to the adults specifically, who are not enrolled into schools unlike the clients of age to enroll into local public schools. There is still lots to learn, especially from the perspective of the clients. How comfortable do they feel as they have a new life now in the United States? What do they hope to achieve now that they have many more opportunities in life? What is the biggest barrier in life here in the United States? By knowing the answers to such questions from the clients themselves, it would give me a better idea of the different progresses that the agency makes throughout their 90-day service period.


In relation to my work of interest, I hope that clients will soon become autonomous of their own health care. While cost may be an issue, I believe that there are many ways and techniques to learn about preventative care that are low in cost, which will help to reduce any future higher costs procedures. As each client has health care insurance, taking advantage of such benefits means for them to become more healthy and independently aware of their holistic health.

Closing Disparity Gaps

This past semester, I took a course titled “Economy of Race and Gender.” While the course tracked the disparity amongst racial groups in the US, primarily White and Black, in an economic perspective, it provided insight to other racial groups. With discrimination and gaps in income, the not so privileged group(s) tend to do worse in life.

I can use this knowledge and apply it to my internship as many of these clients begin with nothing. They navigate the American lifestyle knowing little to no English and with a limited budget. Language barriers and limited to no knowledge on how to work with basic home appliances make living in the United States hard, I would suppose. I remember a story of one family that thought turning off the air conditioner means to push the lever down, which turned out to have an opposite effect of what they had hoped for. The next day, many of the young children suffered from colds and had to be taken to the doctor’s office. Hearing these stories really touch your heart. We must be appreciative that we know how to handle and work with these appliances and amenities, while people from other countries do not know how.

Additionally, the course at Brandeis discussed closing the educational gap where poor and underserved students through Affirmative Action are given preference in admissions. This made me think about my own background as a first-generation college student and how I was able to attend Brandeis. I never thought of leaving my city until mentors from a program that provides college readiness services encouraged me to apply out-of-state to universities like Brandeis, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania. Information about the program, EMERGE-HISD, can be found here. During a short meeting with my supervisor, I brought up the idea of possibly developing a curriculum that encourages high school seniors to apply to need-blind and full-need universities and colleges. I would like for these clients to take advantage of the high-quality education that the United States offers so that they can become future leaders in the United States and the world at large.

Slides from the Health Care Orientation

As research has shown, minority students who enroll at these large, prestigious universities are known to return and serve underserved communities. Likewise, perhaps with these individuals, supported by the refugee agency, they will make an attempt to attend such universities to help bring change to their lives, the lives of their family members, and the lives of people around the world. Similarly, my goal and hope that all clients utilize and take advantage of the benefits of Medicaid will help close the gap of health care disparity both in terms of medicine and dentistry. The findings in this article are relevant to the work I will be doing within the next few weeks. Through my work, ranging from organizing client files, developing a curriculum, to educating clients, I hope that what I do purely reflects my attempt to give access to these individuals who might not know of such opportunities. With these resources, it is of my greatest interest to help inspire their lives and bring positive changes.

Life Number 2: Starting Fresh in the United States

The Refugee Services of Texas (RST) serves refugees, asylees, individuals with Special Immigrant Visas, Cuban-Haitian entrants, Central American minors, survivors of human trafficking, and other vulnerable populations. RST is a social-service agency dedicated to providing assistance to refugees and other displaced persons. A list of the different services that the Houston office offers can be found here. Through its many services, it aims to build a welcoming environment for these underserved and vulnerable populations. The office of the agency is located on the fifth of six total floors of a square building surrounded by other office buildings and apartment complexes. Upon entrance, one may feel that he or she is in a clinic. Chairs are lined up against the wall and against each other in the middle. Toys for the children are stacked in the corner.

Upon my entrance into the office space on my first day, I was greeted by a large number of employees and interns. I felt extremely welcomed and happy to have landed this internship opportunity with RST. It’s not the beauty and aesthetics of the office that makes this agency special, it’s the work that impresses me and pushes me to do all that I can do to better the lives of the clients and the employees here. My work, which may evolve over time, mainly focuses on promoting oral health. My goal is to inform all clients of the importance of keeping good oral hygiene. I will be creating a curriculum for the volunteers to use while they welcome and orient the clients.

Although each client has Medicaid, clients of ages 20 and younger are only eligible to receive dental benefits. Thus, clients of over the age of 20 will have to pay out of pocket, depending on income. More information about this policy can be found at this website. The agency hopes that each client will end up having a dentist to serve their oral health care needs. This will allow for the clients to receive great health care that is vital and of much importance.

My work will be part of the cultural orientation given within the guaranteed 90 days of service that the agency provides for its clients. As of now, the agency informs all clients of health care opportunities and information, but does not do so for dental care. I am happy to help start this new program and service for the agency. I believe that my work will further help make the clients comfortable in their new lives as residents of the United States.

The agency provides services to all ages, including newborns and infants. There is no discrimination!

By summer’s end, I hope to learn about the different policies that govern how refugees, asylees, individuals with Special Immigrant Visas, Cuban-Haitian entrants, Central American minors, survivors of human trafficking, and other vulnerable populations arrive to the United States. As a child of parents who were once refugees, I want to learn more and connect with what it means to be a refugee, as well as the hardships that must be tackled. I hope to learn the many different ways that individuals can become settled into the States, and how present-day government policies affect the lives of these vulnerable populations. I also hope to become more comfortable with interacting with people of different backgrounds and traditions. The employees working in the office, a total of nearly 20, speak a total number of 30 languages. Thus, I am positive that by the end of my internship, I will be able to learn more about different cultures and customs.