Aug 8 2023
Alexa works as an ECAR (Every Campus a Refuge) intern at CWS. ECAR in a nutshell is “a program that partners universities with their local resettlement agencies to help them offset the resources and services that are needed during the resettlement process,” Alexa said. She has various tasks, making everyday look completely different. While Alexa helps with things like cultural orientation, bus training, computer literacy, and more, her “main priority is making sure that there's a smooth communication between the office here at CWS and JMU, and just making sure that all the processes of moving people in and out are going smoothly. And that we're maximizing the services that JMU can provide, along with making sure that those specific families are getting the services that CWS also provides” Alexa said. Some of her other tasks have included bringing fresh vegetables to families, making sure children receive vaccines and are enrolled in school, apartment checks, and even returning a lost key to a family. Alexa explained, “I kind of fill in wherever else help is needed.”
Her interest in ECAR began last semester when she took a class on the refugee crisis and humanitarian assistance. She participated in a project about ECAR and how the program could play a role at JMU. “I got really passionate about this amazing resource that was coming to JMU. I knew I wanted to be involved in some way. So when I found out that there is an internship available this summer, I knew that I had so much information that I could bring to it. And I knew that I was really passionate about the work that I could be doing” Alexa said.
Throughout the internship, it’s been a whirlwind of experiences. “I think my favorite part [about working at a resettlement agency] is getting to watch the process actually happen. And not even just getting to watch it, being a part of it, knowing, and helping because there's so many different things that go into it” Alexa said. Despite all the different tasks Alexa works on, one of the best parts is seeing the benefits of her efforts. “Even with the smallest actions, a lot of the families that I interact with, they do have a lot of gratitude. And I think that's probably my favorite part, when you get to work with the families one on one, it's very rewarding” Alexa explained. From setting up a computer for a client to helping out at a cultural orientation session, “It's cool to think that you're a part of someone's story, even if it's just a small moment. Because those little moments end up making life so much just either easier or better” she said.
On the Fourth of July, ECAR held a potluck event for the families living in JMU housing. “We walked with them to go watch the fireworks for the Fourth of July. And so many of them got so excited about the fireworks. The most beautiful thing was to see them actually be a part of the community because we were surrounded by the Harrisonburg community. That's one of my favorite things that I've gotten to do so far” Alexa said. Our staff at CWS are incredibly grateful for Alexa’s hard work and we look forward to seeing what she accomplishes next.