In my first year at Brown University, I became involved with Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment program . As the University’s largest student volunteer organization, BRYTE pairs students one-on-one with recently resettled refugee youth for in-home tutoring to help them improve their English fluency and navigate life in the United States. First as a tutor and now as BRYTE’s Head Coordinator, I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing 16-year-old, Chandra, who grew up in a Nepalese refugee camp following his parents’ flight from Bhutan. I have always been particularly struck by the fact that a conflict in Bhutan that occurred years before Chandra was even born could continue to impact his life to this day, and my experiences with the broader refugee community in Providence have fueled a strong interest in conflict resolution and desire to understand the ways international organizations cooperate to provide resources to those in need.
This summer, I had the opportunity to build upon my experiences at Brown and with BRYTE and explore different facets of the refugee resettlement process. As an intern at the International Institute of New England—Boston’s primary resettlement agency—I was exposed, for instance, to the intricacies of the relationships between local agencies, the larger non-profit “Voluntary Organizations” (VOLAGs), and the U.S. government. While I had worked with the local resettlement agency in Providence, a key community partner for BRYTE, through this summer internship I was able to immerse myself in inter-agency and governmental contracts at a particularly fascinating time, given the sudden spate of attention paid to those unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border. In a very concrete way I gained an understanding of the way Congressional funding affects local refugee families and the services available to them. This exposure to the larger, institutional issues surrounding refugee resettlement allowed me to contextualize my experiences in BRYTE, while simultaneously offering insight into the different routes I might take after graduation to continue my involvement with refugees and those affected by global conflicts.
Having come to deeply care for many of the families I have been lucky to know in Providence, I hope to work to help mitigate the effects of these incidents of violence and turmoil on families like Chandra’s, and was so grateful for the opportunity to explore different means of doing so through this internship.