Siri, Elizabeth, Soni (the AmeriCorps supervisor) and Michael enjoy a photoshoot outside of the CWS Durham office.
This week nonprofits across the country are celebrating AmeriCorps Week – a week to highlight the dedication and hard work that AmeriCorps members bring to the nonprofits that they serve. This year, CWS Durham is hosting three wonderful AmeriCorps members – Elizabeth, Siri, and Michael!
I sat down to chat with the three of them about their year (so far!) and hear their stories from the past seven months. Elizabeth, who began her second year of AmeriCorps with CWS Durham in September, reflected on how AmeriCorps members have a unique role that has allowed her to learn many different aspects of how a resettlement agency operates. “We are in a special role as AmeriCorps members because we have the flexibility to work across programs,” she stated. “If we want to learn about something we are able to put ourselves in a position to work with that program and learn about the refugee resettlement process from start to finish.” Michael, a first-year AmeriCorps member who serves part-time with CWS Durham, agreed: “We definitely learn more about the whole process of refugee resettlement, not just about the employment program.”
Although AmeriCorps members primarily serve on CWS Durham’s employment team and assist refugee clients with job-related needs, they are able to work across CWS Durham’s programs to fit their interests and professional development goals. From helping set up an apartment for a newly-arrived refugee family to assisting CWS’s immigration legal services office with citizenship appointments, AmeriCorps members have a special opportunity to experience the full spectrum of services that CWS Durham offers and connect with clients each step of the way.
One of the best parts of being an AmeriCorps member is the special relationship that is formed while working alongside clients to help them get started in the U.S. Siri, also a first-year AmeriCorps member, shared a story about a client who she had been working with for several months. When the client first arrived in the U.S., she struggled with feeling isolated because of her English level and lack of transportation options. As Siri met weekly with the client, they talked a lot about the challenges of resettlement and the struggle to grow roots in a new place and culture. With each passing week, Siri watched as the client developed deeper connections to the wider community, finding an English class closer to her home and making a friend who attends each class with her.
One day, during one of their weekly check-ins, the client turned to Siri and said, “Thank you so much for always asking me how I’m doing and talking with me about my life. I love talking to you!” As an AmeriCorps member, Siri had the unique opportunity to walk alongside this client through the emotional ups and downs of life in a new country. “This family is really special to me,” Siri reflected, “because I’ve spent so much time with them and I’ve really seen this client grow and learn to navigate life here.”
We love our AmeriCorps members and are so grateful for all of the energy that they invest in the communities that we serve!