Susan King (right, above, holding the name tag for Meghan Kelly, pictured at left) interned at New Sanctuary for Immigrants in Albany, NY this past fall semester. We asked her some questions after her internship, and here are her answers.
During the semester I spent at NSI, I did a variety of things, from collecting signatures to petitions for Compassionate Immigration Reform to helping maintain an urban garden. I did it all.
The petition wasn’t necessarily a petition; it was more of a way for members of the Albany community to say they were in favor for Compassionate Immigration reform. This was one of the biggest things I did all semester. Sadly, Immigration Reform was turned down in the house this November. But NSI was able to collect over 500 signatures from Albany County. Which really goes to show people such as our local congressman, Rep. Chris Gibson, and Speaker Bohner that people in Albany are in favor of Immigration Reform.
It was a really fun experience. Myself and other volunteers set up tables as several churches, The University of Albany and Siena College to both have petitions signed and to hand out information on immigration reform.
Some days I was going to meetings to talk about immigrants in the area that were seeking help and what we could do to provide for them. Legal consulting, job searching, ESL programs and assisting in furthering any kind of educational or career goal are things that NSI works will. I was able to observe and assist my director, Meg Kelly, with most of this, even if it was just paperwork, I learned a lot.
Many of the immigrants also benefited from the urban garden from Emmaus House. I offered to care for the garden and was able to help harvest and deliver some of the vegetables to Trinity Alliance Food Pantry. I surprised myself, because I actually really enjoyed it.
Writing a newsletter was something I slowly worked on all semester. I collected information about NSI from August to December and composed everything into a blog for NSI. As an English major it was something I actually really enjoyed. I updated their Facebook page and blogged for their newsletter. Mostly it was letting people know about the work NSI is doing and also informing people about what is going with the organization.
Working with NSI in generally affected my opinion about immigrants. NSI is not just lobbying for immigrants; they do everything you can imagine pertaining to assimilating immigrants into Albany.
There was one specific client I helped. She’s a single woman who had a baby born premature, almost three weeks early. She speaks very little English and had to leave her job after her son was born. She didn’t have anything ready for her baby, not a crib or even a car seat to take him home from the hospital in. I collected donations for her and her son through the college of Saint Rose faculty. I was able to collect several bags of clothes, diapers and various other baby supplies. I was surprised at the response from the entire faculty, and everyone was very thankful for their generosity.
I would like to go abroad and teach English as a Second Language after I graduate, so being exposed to non-native English speakers was really beneficial to me. The most important thing I saw was how people shift from their own specific culture into American culture. It was really challenging for some of them. Simple things that most of us take for granted, like getting a license or even enrolling in high school, becomes a huge struggle for immigrants. Seeing these struggles taught me to be more compassionate towards people. Something I think everyone could learn a little about, not just English majors.
What advice would I give future English major interns at NSI? Have an open mind. You may have a preconceived idea about immigration, but you’ll learn from a whole new perspective if you just keep an open mind. Everyone at NSI is a volunteer. They all give time from their busy lives to this cause. They’re really passionate about what they do, and if you’re interested in helping the cause, then you are welcomed with open arms.