Post 5: My Summer at JVS

Although I am only able to intern at JVS for ten short weeks, I have been able to have many invaluable experiences through my work both with clients and career coaches. I have been able to meet with clients and help their job search in concrete ways. Every week, I assisted with the Refugee Services intake, during which we met with new clients and determined their needs in terms of English classes, child care, and job searching efforts. I helped conduct job searches to find the best fit for a specific client. I am able to assist clients in creating their resumes and cover letters and submit job applications, which often lead to job interviews and offers. I work to prepare clients for those job interviews so that they feel more confident about the process.

Additionally, partway through my internship, I was assigned my own child care clients. Since then, I have had the opportunity to understand what it is like to manage your own caseload and clients. I am often assigned my clients as soon as they register for JVS and it is my job to help them locate a child care facility that will allow them to attend classes at JVS and obtain a stable job. I conduct the search, contact the child care providers, and set up appointments for center visits and to obtain vouchers. Also, I meet with my clients to prepare the myriad of forms necessary and inform them of the rules regarding maintaining their voucher.

One of my goals going into my internship at JVS was to learn more about how nonprofits actually work, and their successes and the challenges. I saw firsthand how important the services provided at nonprofits like JVS are to those who we are trying to serve. When approaching social justice issues, in class or out, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the size of a given challenge that may appear insurmountable. It seems that issues such as the immigration crisis, poverty, or hunger are so daunting that you don’t even know where to start.

At JVS, I have learned that often it is the small actions that matter. Instead of focusing on changing laws or popular opinion, which seem like near-impossible tasks, JVS focuses on making positive change in the lives of individuals those laws and popular opinion are affecting. We work with individual clients to give them the skills and support they need to establish themselves in a new place. We offer classes to help our clients better their English skills along with certain subject-related skills. We coach them one-on-one to help them locate, apply for, and secure a job to help them provide for themselves. We assist them with searching for and obtaining child care that will allow them to pursue their career. We help one client at a time to establish meaningful lives in the United States after having to leave their home country. Although progress may seem slow, JVS serves roughly 17,000 people a year. This experience has taught me that no matter how small the action, your social justice work is meaningful. At the time it seems as though you have only made a small difference in one person’s life, but over time you realize that these small actions are what make up a movement.

Post 4: Skills Learned at JVS

During my time at JVS, I have learned and improved upon many skills that will be useful to me not only at Brandeis but also in my future career, whatever it may be. I have learned a great deal simply about daily office life functions as well as skills more specific to the work done at JVS. Coming into JVS, I had never worked in a large city office, and just the size of the space was intimidating among other things. I arrived on my first day to row after row of cubicles, hallways of classrooms, and numerous meeting rooms. I realized that my internship at JVS would be far different from any that I had had in the past.

I have learned a lot about myself and how I fit into and function in a workplace setting. I have learned many small things like where to locate client folders all the way to much more important skills, like how to best conduct a mock interview with a client. I have learned that I love the parts of my day where I get to interact with clients the most. Whether through our weekly intake process where I get to meet new JVS clients or hour-long meetings with clients I’ve met before, I love getting to talk to our clients face to face.

Most importantly, I have learned how to better work with clients. Whether it be on interview skills, editing their resume or assisting them in finding child care, I have learned what one-on-one interactions with clients in an office setting look like. I have recently begun taking on clients of my own and heading their search for child care. I have learned step-by-step how to manage client relationships. From the time I am assigned a client by their career coach through the search process to their registration with a care provider, I have learned how to manage each client’s specific needs.

Additionally, I have learned so much about the bureaucracy involved in the job and child care search process for our clients. I have learned how to navigate the paperwork and rules for government agencies in order to ensure that our clients are able to retain the benefits that to which they’re entitled. I have observed the difficult bureaucratic process that our clients encounter upon their entry into the United States and have seen its challenges firsthand.

Overall, during my time at JVS, I have gained a myriad of tangible skills through my experience working in a large office. However, more importantly I have gained valuable insights into the immigration process for refugees, asylees, and others into the U.S. I have learned about the complicated institutions that they must confront upon their entry and the difficulties they must face in establishing their lives here.

Post 3: The Mission of JVS

Jewish Vocational Services aims to help individuals and families who have recently immigrated to the United States (mainly refugees, asylees, and Haitian or Cuban entrants among others). Its mission is to assist these individuals in finding employment in the U.S. and begin to build their careers here. JVS aims to aide immigrants to the U.S. one person at a time to help them navigate the existing systems in this country. Due to this approach, progress can appear slow, yet is extremely impactful as JVS assists nearly 17,000 individuals per year.

At JVS, we help prepare clients to enter the U.S. workforce in many ways before their job search even begins. We offer thirty-five different employment-focused programs that are available at no cost to our clients. These include vocationally-based English classes as well as subject-specific classes to support our clients in completing either their high school or college degree. JVS also offers a myriad of vocational training programs for industries such as banking, nursing, hospitality, and pharmacy.

During my time at JVS, I have been assisting largely with job and child care-related tasks. These two aspects go hand in hand in the search for meaningful employment as having reliable child care is essential in order to secure a full-time job. Our career coaching services consist of one-on-one work with clients on resume and cover letter creation, job searches, job applications, and mock interview skills. In regards to child care, we assist our clients in finding reliable care that will allow them to retain their new job.

JVS aims to assist individuals immigrating to the U.S. to adjust as easily as possible to their new lives here. Instead of focusing on changing government policy or law, JVS focuses on helping the individuals being affected by those laws the best that we can, despite the ever-changing circumstances surrounding immigration into the U.S. We work to directly impact our clients in meaningful and tangible ways to quickly provide some stability in their lives. The goal at JVS is to help as many people as we can find meaningful employment, so progress is when we can better serve even more people than we could before.

The strategies employed at JVS have been extremely successful in helping to achieve JVS’ goals. We have been able to provide services covering all aspects of job-related life in the U.S., from child care to assistance completing higher education. We have assisted thousands of our clients secure stable jobs that will allow them to establish their new lives in the U.S.

Post 2: A Global Experience at JVS

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.

Post 1: My First Weeks at JVS

Hello! I’m Rebecca Orbach and this summer I am interning at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) in Refugee Services. JVS’s mission is “to empower individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers to hire, develop, and retain productive workforces.” In order to do so, they offer 35 different employment-focused programs. These include English classes, career coaching, vocational training programs, and support in completing high school and college degrees. JVS serves refugees, asylees, Haitian and Cuban entrants, and others.

My work has mainly been assisting the career coaches at JVS. I work in a floor full of cubicles along with a few other college interns. Mainly, I assist with job and childcare searches and applications. In addition, I get to work one-on-one with clients to create resumes and cover letters, work on job applications, and conduct mock interviews. I also assist with my department’s weekly intake process during which we enroll new clients, assess their English level, and introduce them to our services.

My work assists our clients step by step in sending out job applications, being invited to interviews, and eventually being offered a job. We help recent immigrants navigate the difficulties that come along with searching for a new job in a new country that speaks a different language from you in an attempt to make the transition into life in the United States as seamless as possible.

By the end of summer, I am hoping to have built real relationships with both the clients I work with and my coworkers. I hope to learn to build strong professional relationships that I am able to rely on for advice and guidance in the future. Similarly, I hope to learn how to build real relationships with the clients I work with. I hope to be able to work with the same clients over and over again in order to learn how to better assist them and to establish a higher level of understanding of one another.

Additionally, I came in to my internship at JVS hoping to gain a better sense of the inner workings of non-profit organizations. I hope to learn about how these important programs were created in the first place and how JVS has been able to grow and expand its services in order to best prepare those it aims to serve. I also aim to better understand the daily functions of non-profit organizations including the challenges they face in terms of funding, staffing, and ever-changing laws that affect who makes up their clientele.

Overall, I have had an incredible experience at JVS so far. Meeting with clients and hearing their experiences and goals have been amazing opportunities to learn from them even while they are supposed to be there to learn from us. I am excited to continue to help our clients in any way that I can in order to help them make new homes in Boston.