During my time as a community engagement intern at ReEstablish Richmond I was able to learn about the administrative side of running a small scale NGO. I had been exposed to the direct service and volunteer side of working with people in the refugee community but never what happens behind the scenes. This experience allowed me to better understand all that goes into working directly with clients, planning events, and managing volunteers in a way that makes clients feel as though they are part of the ReR family.
With only five staff members, ReR is able to work with over 600 clients so that they can establish roots, create community, and become self sufficient. This takes a lot of coordination, volunteer engagement, community engagement planning, and communication, of which interns are a functioning part. What stood out to me about the ReR intern program was how much impactful and practical work I was allowed to do, rather than “normal intern tasks” like paperwork, making copies, or grabbing coffee. The staff at ReR ensured that I was informed on what was happening within the organization and the communities they work with while giving me jobs that would not only benefit their organization, but also teach me about volunteer coordination and NGO management.
One task in particular that helped me grow in my understanding of their work was creating a Living Our Values Toolkit. This was a document that included the ReR values as well as information about why the language used by everyone associated with ReR matters. ReR staff, volunteers, and interns are taught to address clients using person-first language, ensuring that they portray their clients first and foremost as who they are: people. This made me more conscious about how I speak about members of resettled communities and how my words portray my own values as well as the values of ReR.
At my time with ReR I was given the opportunity to grow in my knowledge of NGO administration and my understanding of working with our newest neighbors. ReR gave me the tools to take on tasks that I was unaware I could handle, in a way that made me feel challenged at times but always confident in my abilities and potential. I value all that I was able to learn at ReR, as it supplied me with important tools for going forward in my work with members of resettled communities.
By Elizabeth Murphy
McGill University, Class 2021