by Sarah Moauro
Walking up to the Refugee Center doors each Monday and Wednesday, I’m never sure of what to expect for my upcoming hour. On many occasions, I walk into a bustling office, the phones ringing off the hook and multiple clients waiting for their turn to talk to receive assistance from one of the ECIRMAC staff. However, being the ‘lunch shift’ volunteer, as I think of it, it’s not strange for my noon to one shift to involve little action. While some days can be busy, on others the center can be close to vacant with next to no tasks needing immediate attention. Every now and then, I get a shift where I have little more to do than answer the one or two phone calls that come though. However, this is certainly not to say that during this time I do nothing or that my hour is wasted.
Instead, when I have down time at the Refugee Center, I try to make it a quality hour in some manner that benefits my volunteering experience or abilities. Of course, Deborah, a co-director of ECIRMAC, lets all of the volunteers know that we are more than welcome to do homework, surf the internet, or whatever makes us happy when things are slow, and when academic times have gotten tough, I certainly have accepted this offer on occasion. However, I try my best to spend most of my spare time improving my abilities that relate to the Center. One easy way that I do this is to browse the ECIRMAC website (http://www.ecirmac.org/). Getting to know as many details as possible about the people I work with, the Center’s history, and simple tips and words of advice all help me feel better prepared to help the clients. I also try to buff up my vocabulary, which not only could use a little help conversationally but especially so with legal terms. At ECIRMAC there are quite a few dictionary and phrase books around for me to flip through and look up words that I came across in earlier days. There’s even a dictionary dedicated to legal terms, which have come in handy! Although I’m not necessarily able to regurgitate everything that I look up or come across at a later time, making the terms more familiar to myself helps me to better understand that problems of clients that come through or call the office. Days may not always be packed at the refugee center, but there are always plenty of things to keep me busy and make my time there well spent.