As my time at CCLS comes to a close, I can’t help but thinking how this has definitely been the most enriching work experience I’ve had thus far. I’m feeling a wave of appreciation for both the program and the people – especially after a particular encounter reminded me of the type of work that a majority of interns are involved in.
The Jamaican consulate is located in the same building as CCLS so I decided to introduce myself to the consular upstairs. After having a conversation with him, I was curious if the consulate took interns, given my strong interest in diplomacy. He mentioned that they do not have an internship program, but they occasionally take people on in order for them to gain some experience in the field. However, the only kind of work they can do is data entry, which I guess is understandable as the focus of the consulate is passport and visa application processing.
This contrasts immensely with the work that I’ve done at CCLS and further emphasizes the range of knowledge that I’ve been exposed to in these past seven weeks. On one hand, I’ve learned an incredible amount through engaging with clients and hearing their stories and on the other hand, I’ve learned so much from filling out asylum application forms, organizing client spreadsheets, calling Latin American consulates, gathering the documents for a case filing, translating affidavits, and witnessing court hearings. It also allows me to help the people of my own country in a unique way that the Jamaican consulate would not. I remember when Brother Mike told an elderly Jamaican man who was legally blind to ask me where I’m from. His sad face immediately transformed into a huge smile with such happy eyes. After spending some time conversing about home, I assisted him in attempting to find low-income housing because he was only earning $700 a month and after paying monthly rent of $500, among other bills, he was left to live on only $100 per month. These figures were absurd and I could not imagine trying to do the same, so I felt determined to find him more affordable housing. The task proved much more difficult than I thought, as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Chapman Partnership and City of Miami Beach Homeless assistance, among multiple other organizations, all had a long waiting list that was closed and expected to re-open in a year. Although I could not find him anything that day, I will be following up with his case to ensure that this Jamaican is assigned a case manager that will help him to find low-income housing in the near future.
If possible, I would love to volunteer for this organization in my gap year before law school because the connection I feel to their mission runs deep. Today, it was amazing to hear a teenage boy speak about how he aspires to work in human rights when he gets older and to hear a woman from Honduras tell Cassandra, the lawyer, how much she loves her for helping her get a petition granted. The work here is truly inspiring. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at CCLS and I’m ready to give this last week my all.