(2) Seeing People as People

“See people as people, and nothing else.”

One concept I have learned during my time at Brandeis is the idea of trauma-informed care. I first remember hearing this term used at Volunteerfest in interactions with volunteers. I had never heard this type of language used before, which intrigued me. I remember feeling that the phrase felt sanitary and performative at first. Another area in which I began to hear this phrase used frequently was in immigration advocacy settings. For example, I heard this word used in volunteer training with The Right to Immigration Institute. The discussions that followed were about centering the client and how to treat them with empathy, while understanding that their own experiences are unique and different. It is when I heard this concept applied in real-life situations like these that I began to grasp the functionality of this idea.

The idea that you are not someone’s savior is one key component of trauma-informed care that I seek to implement when applicable. My original aversion to applications of trauma-informed care occurred because the trope seemed all too similar to relationships such as the white savior complex. I felt that, while trauma-informed care was helpful at its core, it would be misused and damaging in the process. Therefore, I remind myself to mentally check-in and ensure that I am not attempting to save a client that I am working with, but rather, work WITH them to achieve THEIR goals.

Trauma-informed care has become more significant to me due to my internship. Working with clients at the Law Office of Saikon Gbehan, LLC has been unlike any other experience. One reason why I believe this experience is unique is that it has been entirely virtual—just me, my desk, my computer, and my phone sitting alone in my office working in the cool air while the Georgia heat melts away at the outside world. While this may seem repetitive and mundane, in reality, each nine-hour shift feels like I am powering up a new tool to use. And the tool that I have been powering up recently is trauma-informed care.

Now that I am nearing the end of my work on a client’s family-based petition for legal permanent residency status, otherwise known as a green card, I have begun to reflect on my relationship with that client. I am proud of the work that we have accomplished together, but at times I felt frustrated. Why didn’t they do X? How could they forget Y? I thought they needed Z? As I pondered these questions during my time working with this client, I realized that I was acting selfishly and assuming that my thoughts were my client’s needs, and not focusing enough on their perspective. I realized that my perspective needs to take a back seat in this environment and should instead focus on the client’s needs and wants. I believe my crucial tenant of trauma-informed care can be summed up in one sentence: see people as people, and nothing else.