Monday, March 14, 2011

Student Reflection

by Haley Dwyer

Hello again! This semester, as I said in my earlier post, I will be volunteering my time at the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC). ECIRMAC is a wonderful organization that I never knew existed in Champaign-Urbana. The Refugee Center is a non-profit organization that helps to aid in the resettlement of immigrants and refugees from all over the world. The work that they do here on a daily basis is vital for the survival of many of the immigrants who come into the Refugee Center. There are multitudes of people who work at the Center who speak almost every language known to man. The time and commitment that they put into their job is absolutely amazing and because of it I have a lot of respect for them.

The thing that surprised me the most about the Refugee Center is how they operate. Their office is literally located in a hole in the wall of a church, yet they serve hundreds of people a week. Since they are a non-profit organization, they have an incredibly small budget and therefore do not have the best accommodations. Their filing system is simply a filing cabinet with three drawers, all of which are stuffed basically to the maximum with folders on clients. Along with this, they only have two computers in which their documents are saved everywhere. Although they work in such limiting and sometimes hectic conditions, the employees of the Refugee Center are able to thrive. They maintain a level of determination for helping their clients to the best of their ability that both amazes and impresses me. Their dedication to these people is moving and after volunteering at the Refugee Center for some time I am starting to understand it.

My time at the Refugee Center so far has been a rollercoaster in itself. Since I have never been fully emerged in Spanish before, it can be overwhelming at times. Some days I walk out of the Center and feel like my Spanish skills are completely inadequate and that going to Spain is a foolish idea. Then again, on some days I walk out of that tiny office and feel absolutely confident in my Spanish skills and ready to take on the world. These days, where I feel like I was actually able to help someone, are what keep me coming back to the Refugee Center every week. Although a lot of times I feel like my vocabulary is not up to par with the Center, I always try my hardest to express myself while using Spanish. I hope that as time progresses at the Refugee Center, I will be able to improve my Spanish skills and to become more comfortable with them. I am also looking forward to meeting new people and hearing their stories, because for me that is why I chose to volunteer at the Refugee Center. 

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