Please visit worldrelief.org/careers, choose US Opportunities, and sort by Memphis to see new positions.
As we look toward 2021, we’re reminded that change persists and change rebuilds. If you’ve been friends with us for a little while, you’ve walked with us as we have seen refugee resettlement numbers drastically decline, asylum challenged, and the need for immigration reform more apparent than ever. While we reduced our capacity to reflect those reductions, we were able to reimagine our work among the broader immigrant and refugee community, open our Connect Language Center, and provide new programs and services that cultivate restoration and flourishing in our community.
The ongoing support of our welcoming community has allowed us to continue serving our neighbors despite significant funding cuts. Now, we’re on the verge of another big change. With indications that the refugee admission cap could be raised to 125,000, DACA reopened, and other promising immigration initiatives, we are faced with the exciting challenge of rebuilding the necessary infrastructure to welcome all of our new arrivals well. It is a challenge we are eager to face with your help!
To help us rebuild, consider joining our team or networking on our behalf as we recruit people who are hospitable, innovative, and have the grit required to welcome and love our newest neighbors.
We are currently hiring:
- Employment Manager
- Programs Specialist
- Connect Language Center Director (ESL Center)
- Other new positions posting soon!
Spanish/English or Multi-lingual is preferred or required for each position. Please visit worldrelief.org/careers, choose US Opportunities, and sort by Memphis to see these and other new positions posting soon.
You can also consider a year-end gift. Giving today will allow us to hire and train new staff in anticipation of these new arrivals. Will you help us get ready to welcome our newest neighbors?
Internships that inspire and transform
Although Noah Rinehart grew up in Memphis, he had never heard of World Relief and didn’t know much about refugees. But once a community service coordinator at Rhodes College recommended it to him based on similar evangelical beliefs, he was intrigued. He ended up interning for six semesters and the summer of 2017, and the resulting experience was less about an academic interest and more about development of his practical life skills and personal growth. He appreciated the chance to broaden his horizons and spend time outside of the Rhodes community, providing perspective and a welcome change from a rigorous and sometimes elitist academic environment. As he learned to navigate government offices and cultural barriers, he also saw the intense challenges faced firsthand by refugees which would cause them to flee their homes. Their challenges do not end with arrival in the United States, but change as they must learn to navigate bureaucratic hurdles, apartment leases, employment contracts, and quite often a language barrier too.
The relationships Noah built with other interns, staff, and program participants were highlights of his experience at World Relief. One of his favorite memories is being in the car with the other summer interns as they drove to an apartment complex where many resettled clients live. When they arrived, an older Syrian man whom they knew through World Relief was riding around the parking lot on a tiny child’s bike! When he recognized them, he just waved with no explanation. They were not even there to visit him, but his playfulness gave them a good laugh and turned an otherwise ordinary day into a memorable one.
Several clients stood out in Noah’s memory as he reflected on his time at World Relief. He remembered a mother and daughter from East Africa with whom he spent a lot of time at their appointments. He was impressed by the mother’s gracefulness and composure. She was never in a hurry for anything, even when they were running very late! While at the DMV one day waiting for an ID card, he struck up a conversation with the daughter, who was getting ready to start ninth grade at a new school. As it ended up, he had attended a school in the same district. He was able to encourage her and tell her about her new school, making her transition to high school a little easier.
As a religious studies major at Rhodes and a Christian, the faith-based aspect of the internship appealed to Noah. He was amazed to learn the sheer number of times the Old Testament admonishes Israel as God’s people to care for the stranger and foreigner among them, and how that command applies to God’s people today, the church, as well. He enjoyed learning more about the church’s role in serving their neighbors, and in many cases their brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes it was difficult and discouraging to engage in this space, as he had a front-row seat to seeing churches' varied reactions toward questions of immigration. On one hand, he was encouraged by those who had chosen to step up and care for their neighbors the way that God calls the church to love them-- all of them. But on the other hand, he was also discouraged by those who rejected the call to action and continued to perpetuate hurtful and exclusionary policies toward the foreigner. He came to view loving the stranger as a non-negotiable in the Christian faith through this experience and has taken this view with him in his post-grad endeavors in college ministry.
Being able to work with other Christians operating under similar priorities was one of Noah’s favorite parts about the internship. The staff serves refugees because of Jesus’ commands to love their neighbors, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. The nature of service work is confronting hard situations daily, but Noah was grateful for a supportive office community who helped him think about these challenges in a healthy way, without being consumed by the weight of it all. When he worked here in 2017, the challenge was lowered quotas and declining public support for immigration, but he felt like the office was overall optimistic and flexible to the required changes. He was inspired by the sense of hope he still felt as the general attitude was to trust in the Lord’s provision despite the fact that lowered visa numbers made for a discouraging couple of years. Through this experience, he came to appreciate turning off the news and actually engaging with immigrants in our communities. He found that the relationships built in this way are the ones which are most impactful and mutually transformative.
We are always looking for interns to join our team and learn more about what we do. Noah recommends this internship to anyone looking to grow in their cross cultural abilities and to see the heart of God as they engage with refugees in the Memphis community. Sound like you or someone you know? Check out our internships page to learn more and apply.
Sarah Barnett was the former Mobilization Intern for World Relief Memphis and is a senior at Furman University in South Carolina. She majors in Political Science and Spanish and is passionate about influencing where people and policies collide.
When God Gives: The Story of Ruth and Dieudonne
Ruth and Dieudonne met and got married in the Gihembe Refugee Camp. Both their families found refuge there in 1997. They were there “for too long” - and most of their family is still there.
“They don’t have a chance to come. If they had a chance, yes, they would want to come.”
Dieudonne and Ruth both sang in the choir at church and her brother was neighbors with Dieudonne, whose name means “God gives.” They would often see each other during the day and week. The two were married in 2015 at a small ceremony of family and close friends. In 2016, Ruth’s family was notified that they would be going to America. Because Dieudonne and Ruth had only recently gotten married and not filed together, Ruth needed to go with her sister, brother, and mother to America. Before she left, she went through the required medical exams and tests. She found out she was pregnant, and at a follow-up ultrasound, they discovered it was twins! Dieudonne said goodbye to Ruth before she got on to a bus with others headed to the airport.
“When couples say goodbye in the waiting area, usually they cry. Ruth cried. I hid my emotions. Her sister and her friend Lillian cried too.”
With separate cases, Ruth and Dieudonne still held on to hope that they would one day be reunited, but they did not know when. Ruth and her family arrived in 2016. Arrey Kelvin Bissong was one of their assigned World Relief Good Neighbor Team volunteers. An immigrant from Cameroon, he was not able to welcome Ruth and her family at the Memphis airport because of work, but he rushed to meet them the next day. One of Ruth's siblings speaks French, and they were excited to hear a familiar language when Arrey Kelvin spoke French to them that day. He invited them to his church, and the church welcomed them eagerly in the coming months. Everyone took care of Ruth. There were doctors’ visits, World Relief appointments, and job hunts. The first few months of arrival are always overwhelming, and having a new circle of community to care and comfort is essential. Through a difficult pregnancy, early delivery of the twins and time at the hospital, Dieudonne was present via WhatsApp calls and texts. He longed to hold his babies and be with his wife. “Each week, we talked together on the phone with the kids, on video. It is family. It felt like family.” Ruth and Dieudonne decided to name their twins after Arrey, to honor his role in their lives as such support in Ruth’s transition to America. Their son is named Kelvin and their daughter is named Kelvine.
“What was the hardest part about being away from them for those years, Dieudonne?”
The twins began to babble, speak their first words, take first steps, and grow up. After years of texts and calls, there was word that Dieudonne’s case was moving forward. They finally got the call. Ruth prepared to reunite with her husband and start their life together in America. The case still took a while, and they waited eagerly.
The night finally came at Memphis International Airport. World Relief staff, family, and Ruth’s community in Memphis gathered together. Kids ran around with little American flags, friends embraced and shared their excitement for Ruth.
Passengers of the same plane slowly appeared and walked past. There was a whole crowd awaiting one man. At the first sight of Dieudonne, the security guard had to persuade Ruth to stand behind the specific “no entry” line across the floor. Overcome with emotion, friends and family screamed and cheered, as Dieudonne passed over the line into Memphis, Tennessee, embracing his wife after more than three years. Shy little Kelvin and Kelvine shuffled forward to meet their father for the first time in their lives. He scooped them up in his arms.
“There were so many people. I was surprised to see so many people to welcome me,” Dieudonne reflected a year later.
Arrey has taught Dieudonne how to drive. Through World Relief’s Connect Language Center, Dieudonne has learned English so he can work and provide for his family.
“As a parent, I get to do everything. Pay for everything, go to work, take care of my family, praying, everything.”
Since their reunification, Ruth and Dieudonne have welcomed another son, Israel, into their home.
“On my side, with Israel, everything was perfect. Up close. Getting to see him grow. The twins are already grown. I was there [on WhatsApp, but it was] totally different. Ruth had her mother and sister, but now I’m here!”
When asked what he hopes for his children, Dieudonne answered, “I pray for their future. To grow in the hands of God. To live in harmony and peace. That their futures be bright.”
What would you say to Americans learning about refugee resettlement?
“Let families reunite! It’s a big gift for kids to have both parents!”
By Emily Frazier
Emily Frazier is a humanitarian photographer and gifted communicator. She seeks to educate, advocate and empower through her work, partnering with NGOs, non profits, and individuals to document the human experience with dignity. Emily has photographed for World Relief Memphis since 2017.
Meet Family Reunification Specialist: Josselyne Bustillo
I had the opportunity to interview Josselyne Bustillo, our former Family Reunification Specialist here at World Relief Memphis. She shares a little about what her work was like and where it fit into the goals and mission of World Relief as a whole. The interview has been edited for style and clarity.
Hi, my name is Josselyne, and I've lived here in Memphis for four years. I grew up in Jackson, Tennessee, and I'm originally from Honduras. I was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I went to Union University in Jackson, Tennessee; I lived at home since I'm from Jackson. After I graduated from Union, I went to the University of Memphis School of Law and graduated earlier this year.
What was your role at World Relief Memphis?
At World Relief Memphis, I worked on AORs, which are Affidavits of Relationship. These are available to both refugees and asylees currently in the United States, depending on what country they're originally from. If we had someone at the World Relief office that was from a qualifying country, they would become what we called a US tie to sponsor another refugee’s entrance into the United States. These AORs are mostly just used for immediate family members who are refugees and registered with the UN in another country abroad. We would fill out an AOR, an affidavit of relationship, so that when the family member’s refugee process was done they would be sure to come here to Memphis. There are other rules involved that occasionally provide for sponsorship of people who are not immediate family members, and it's a way to bring families together and try to reunite a family unit, so in this case, in Memphis.
Why are the affidavits important to World Relief?
The importance of the affidavits is twofold. First of all, it is an important way to get more people together as a family unit. My title at World Relief Memphis was Family Reunification Specialist, based on how these AORs work to bring families together again in Memphis. That's important because if a refugee doesn't have a US tie when they enter the country, for lack of a better description, the US Office of Refugee Resettlement will choose somewhere for you to go depending on what cities are accepting refugees or other internal factors. If someone has a US tie, they'll ask, “Do you want to go where this person is?” And so in that case, the refugee would say, “Yes, that's my dad, that's my wife, that's my brother. I want to go where they are.” It's important in that aspect for the people that we were serving to be together with their family members. The AORs are also a good thing for World Relief and the Memphis office in general because that way we're able to keep family units together. We were also able to create more of a pipeline, you could say, of refugees and asylees coming into Memphis as well, which is important to World Relief and to the Memphis community because it makes it more diverse.
How did your legal background help you with these?
I don't know if I would say you need a legal background, but I think it helped me understand the different agencies at work when it comes to the refugee aspects, such as the refugee agencies, and once someone entered the country, the immigration agencies too. It also helped me understand the need for an AOR, and why we weren’t just waiting for the person to become a citizen and then go through the process of petitioning because that could take a little longer. A refugee would have to wait five years to become a citizen before they could petition for an immediate family member like a wife, parent or child. If we were able to fill out an AOR and go through the refugee process, then that person could come here earlier. All of these people are refugees for one reason or another. They've left their home state and gone to another, so it was important for me to help them come to a safer place as soon as possible. I think that understanding the legal system and the reality that it might take a while if you just wait instead of taking the steps available, like the AORs, allowed me to help people with the process of bringing their loved ones to the US.
How did your background, being from Honduras, affect how you viewed this work, or really any of your work at World Relief?
My background definitely affected and still does my interest in refugees and immigration and asylum. Most of the people who I would do AORs for were refugees from African nations, but there were a lot of asylum seekers from Central America, specifically from Honduras, where I’m from. My background helped me understand that someone might see a refugee or an asylee and have trouble imagining the reality of their life since it has been so difficult, and I felt the same way. But being from Honduras, it helped me put into perspective how it can easily happen to anyone. It's really not a reflection of who you are as a person, and more a reflection of where you were born and situations that have been thrust upon you. And then, obviously, being an immigrant, I think that made me just have a heart for immigration and then end up in a place like World Relief because of that.
How did you hear about World Relief?
Well as I mentioned, I went to Union University. I had heard about World Relief previously before I even came to Memphis through the Christian community at Union, specifically because I was and still am interested in immigration-type work, and it’s a nonprofit that serves as a resettlement center for refugees. Then once I moved here, I learned a little more about them.
What was the process of getting involved with World Relief Memphis? What did that look like?
Actually it was interesting! I had heard of PJ before, who is the office director, because I am friends with his brother-in-law. I emailed PJ, and I told him that I was looking to do work within the immigration field, and that I am passionate about World Relief's mission, not just towards immigrants but towards the vulnerable people in our community especially through a Christian worldview. A few weeks later, he responded and said we're actually opening up a position for AORs, and I think that you would be a good fit for it. Through that, I applied for the position and went through the interview process to be hired for the position.
Who have you met in your work so far?
Well, I've honestly probably only met World Relief staff. I think it's very nice to be surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals. In a workplace, it is common to be surrounded by people with similar interests, but at World Relief it goes beyond that. Because we might all have been interested in immigration and refugee law and things like that, but, on top of that, we were not just interested in those things. We all had similar worldviews to those around us and could speak freely of those, and that was really nice.
As far as clients go, I submitted four AORs, and they were for African and Syrian refugees.
What were you hoping to learn at WRM? What do your next steps look like?
Well, I had done some asylum work before but I had never done refugee work. I was definitely looking forward to learning more about that, especially how the process itself works of becoming a refugee. Because I knew that World Relief did a lot for the refugees, but I also knew that when they get to Memphis there has already been a long process that they've gone through to get here. For us at World Relief, their arrival starts the process, but I know that for the individual, it has been way longer than just that. I guess you could say that’s where their American story starts, but there has been so much prior to that. I enjoyed learning more about the refugee process and how someone comes about to end up in Memphis, Tennessee one day.
Sarah Barnett was the former Mobilization Intern for World Relief Memphis and is a senior at Furman University in South Carolina. She majors in Political Science and Spanish and is passionate about influencing where people and policies collide.
Giving Tuesday 2020 is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of change. Because of you, Memphis is a place where immigrants are welcome and where people find refuge and opportunity. We are expecting a season of growth in 2021 and we are excited for YOU to be part of it! So on this Giving Tuesday, we want to do something BIG. With your help, we hope to raise $6000 to impact our work of welcome and lasting change in Memphis.
Change that lasts isn’t easy. It’s a journey that takes time and reflection. But together, we can embrace change and reclaim the narrative of 2020 to bring hope, healing and transformation to our world, starting right here.
Here are just some of the things your money can do:
$35 // Provide books for one adult learner for one cycle of ESL at our Connect Language Center
$75 // Provide 1 week groceries for one refugee or immigrant household
$150 // Connect five refugee young adults with a mentor for academic and career counseling
$200 // Provide basic necessary items for one new apartment set up for a newly welcomed family
$250 // Provide employment training for immigrants and refugees ready to work
$500 // Sponsor a 5-week cycle of ESL classes at our Connect Language Center
You've already demonstrated this is a cause close to your heart, and that you care for refugees and immigrants here and around the world. Will you join us today as we aim to welcome, support and serve those in Memphis, creating lasting change as we look ahead to 2021?
This is the perfect time to invite your network into giving towards something important to you as well. Let's show the power of giving today! Don’t forget to share your support on social media with the hashtags #GivingTuesday, #MadeForChange and tag Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter (@wrmemphis) accounts.
We can’t wait to tell you about the difference you’ll make.
PJ Moore, Director
World Relief Memphis
P.S. Monthly donations help to budget your gift — for you and us! Please consider making a recurring monthly contribution as a Welcome Partner by clicking here.
January is National Mentoring Month and we are excited to launch our new Youth Mentoring Program in partnership with the Memphis Grizzlies! Learn how you can join us a youth mentor - check out this video and read more here.
Shawnee McDonnell has always had a heart for vulnerable populations, especially refugees. After graduating last May from Missouri State University with a Global Studies major and minors in Latin American Studies and Spanish, she was thrilled to join us as an AmeriCorps Vista member. Her time at World Relief has already given her an important first-hand glimpse into refugee issues in the United States and the challenges of adjusting to a new and very different culture. She has drawn on her experience studying abroad in Costa Rica to help her understand, in some small way, what it is like to be in a new place and have to get around without really knowing the language. Combined with domestic volunteer experience in poverty relief, her background informs her work here at World Relief. During her term here, she is building a refugee youth mentoring program in the Memphis area from the ground up as part of a state-wide initiative.
Our program will be one of several across Tennessee intended to provide additional support to refugees ages 15-24, who are navigating their own coming of age alongside the difficult transition into the United States. To prepare for the launch of the World Relief Memphis program in January, Shawnee has been researching similar programs across the country and best practices for youth mentoring. Through this, she has come to understand the importance of supporting refugee youth in their personal, career, and educational goals by giving them space to dream with a dedicated mentors and mentees. These mentors will be members of the welcoming Memphis community, including well-established immigrant communities. The program is voluntary, but we anticipate sustained interest among many of our eligible clients, as this fills an important role in creating opportunities for integration within our community.
For the first three months of the program, the mentees and mentors will meet in a small (virtual) group with the program coordinator as they get to know each other and build rapport. For the rest of their year commitment, they will continue to meet as a small group without the program coordinator as they set goals and learn new skills. They will also benefit from trainings and events held by the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation "Mentor Memphis Grizzlies."
These relationships will contribute to the success and integration of these youth as they begin to establish their adult lives in the United States. We are excited to see how creating space to dream empowers these young people to pursue their passions. These achievements will contribute to the richness of our community and state, and even can contribute to breaking cycles of generational poverty.
Shawnee has seen first-hand how trust placed in someone can create a sense of pride and self confidence through her own work here and hopes to create a similar experience in this program. She has seen how the investment of a little bit of time and direction goes a long way in establishing a support network for those who are trying to figure out their next step in life. Therefore the confidence and knowledge she is gaining undoubtedly will serve her well in whatever she chooses to pursue once her time with us is completed, as she gains experience about the realm of non-profit service.
Does the challenge that refugee youth face resonate with you? Would you like to make a difference? Get started HERE.
Sarah Barnett is the Mobilization Intern for World Relief Memphis and a senior at Furman University in South Carolina. She majors in Political Science and Spanish, and is passionate about influencing where people and policies collide.
At World Relief, we believe that every single one of us is made for change — both in our own lives and in communities across the globe. Throughout this holiday season, we’ve created a list of companies and products that embody our commitment to change in our Made for Change Gift Guide.
Each of these companies is committed to serving those in vulnerable situations by partnering with World Relief. When you purchase a gift from this gift guide, you’ll not only support the work of World Relief, but you’ll be investing in small businesses across the U.S as well.
So what are you waiting for? Shop the gift guide, and create the change you know you were made for.
17Berkshire - Memphis
17Berkshire is a Memphis-made Patisserie on Overton Square offering European desserts with flavors nodding to both the deep South and Middle East. Treat the sweet people in your life with macarons, afternoon tea, specialty coffees, gift items in the shop, or gift card for future use.
For the woman (or man!) in your life that wants their outside to shine as brightly as their inside, pick up a few face masks from Musee Bath’s newest line, prettyinside.
Prettyinside is built on the belief that all women are beautiful, that they are created in the image of God and that beauty is more than skin deep. Empower the women in your life to take a look in the mirror and channel their inner strength, courage and beauty. All prettyinside products are sourced with the best plant-based ingredients for your skin. The packaging is 100% recyclable, and a portion of all sales go to support refugee women through the work of World Relief. “World Relief is one of the foremost organizations addressing the needs [of refugees], and because this is a beauty brand and it’s targeted to women, I wanted to work with somebody that worked a lot with women and children. We are incredibly excited to be partnering with World Relief are so thankful for the work they do that makes a difference in the lives of so many women around the world.” – Leisha Pickering, founder
For the writer and kind-hearted giver in your life, shop owners Taylor and Justin have created a series of notebooks, greeting cards and art prints that your loved one is sure to enjoy. Each gift is inspired by Taylor and Justin’s love of nature, travel, community and warmth. A portion of each purchase goes to support World Relief!
For the people in your life who need to indulge in a little self-care, InSenseUSA is your go-to shop. This collection of candles, soaps and bath bombs are all handcrafted with love in Wheaton, Illinois.
Shopowner Al Alsaadi and his parents fled their home in Iraq several years ago and were eventually resettled in the U.S. They got connected with World Relief, and with hard work and a resilient spirit, they rebuilt their live in the Chicago suburbs. Al is now a design engineer, part-time college professor and small business owner. He’s excited to give back to World Relief because of how much he feels World Relief has given to him.
“I am excited to give to World Relief simply because I wouldn’t be here, and I would not succeed in my life without World Relief. From the first day I came to the States up until to this moment — of having my own small business — Word Relief is on my side helping me. We are in this life to change someone’s life. We might be planning on doing it or not, but if we stop for a minute and think through it, we might have changed someone’s life just by smiling and saying good morning.” -Al Alsaadi
This beautiful book is perfect for the avid reader and art lover in your life. Seattle-based artist Karisa Keasey spent two years interviewing refugees and painting portraits to accompany their stories. She combined the artwork and stories in this stunning book you can purchase on her website. 50% of the profits will be donated to World Relief.
“These are tough times right now and we are all in need of healing. Healing happens in community, and community happens by pouring into others. World Relief embodies this community and knows what it is like to walk alongside some of the most vulnerable.” – Karisa Keasey
Love. Energy. Nourish. Soothe. These are just a few of the words used to describe the bath bombs from Refugee Bath Co. whose mission is to provide opportunities for refugees in Washington to thrive.
Give the gift of fun and indulgence to a special friend or family member in your life, and why not throw an extra bath bomb set in the cart for yourself? When you enjoy these products, you make a difference in the lives of refugee women and men in the United States, as a portion of their profits are donated to refugee support services.
Did you know your Amazon purchases can support World Relief? They can through Amazon Smile! Every time an Amazon Smile customer makes a purchase, 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases will be donated to a charity of your choice.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for from one of the amazing businesses in this gift guide, or if you’re already shopping on Amazon, then follow the steps below to shop on Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate to World Relief on your behalf:
Visit smile.amazon.com and sign in to/register for your account
Type World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals as your selected charity
Rachel Clair serves as a Content Writer at World Relief. With a background in creative writing and children’s ministry, she is passionate about helping people of all ages think creatively and love God with their hearts, souls and minds.
Prayer is one of our core values at World Relief, a priority and foundation to accomplishing our mission.
Prayer changes our perspective and our posture. It helps us recognize we are not in control, but we are seeking hope in the One who is.
And so we are inviting you into a change journey of prayer as we start our new (fiscal) year. The Bible has a lot to say about God's heart for the vulnerable, including immigrants. Starting October 1, we are launching the "I Was A Stranger" 40-Day Scripture and Prayer Challenge. You can follow along with us on social media as we share one verse to read and meditate on each day. You can start the plan on the YouVersion Bible app. Or you can visit The Evangelical Immigration Table for printable bookmarks and downloadable graphics (like the one pictured here) in English and Spanish. And you can share the challenge with others, sparking a change movement.
What change of perspective could come of this prayer challenge? What encouragement could we lend to our community by leaving other narratives aside and seeing our neighbors of all nationalities as people of worth, dignity, created in God's image? How might we pray more urgently for people forcibly displaced and strangers in new lands, including America? How would we pray differently about policies that affect them?
Start the "I Was a Stranger" Challenge with us today!
Kristen Morris heard about World Relief during her time at Rhodes College. As a member of their City Link program, she volunteered in the Memphis community during three years of her college career. Her first year was spent in an elementary school, but after exploring her international studies major further, she wanted to shift her volunteer focus to connect more closely with her studies. Through her major, she developed an interest in immigration and wanted to get to know immigrants in her new community. This desire made World Relief a great fit for her. The program put her in touch with World Relief Memphis, and she volunteered here for six semesters, until her graduation in May 2020.
One of the things that stood out to her the most about her experience at World Relief was the collaborative nature of the nonprofit sector, both between organizations and with local churches. One of her classes had discussed the large number of nonprofits in Memphis and their collaboration with one another. She was able to see that collaboration first hand with World Relief’s connections to organizations such as Christ Community Health. She also enjoyed seeing the collaboration between churches of different denominations who all agree that they are called to work with immigrants and welcome them to the Memphis community.
Kristen spent her time at World Relief in the Employment and Casework departments. Through this work she interacted with program participants on a daily basis, through home visits and providing support at appointments. By her final semester of the internship, she had become the intern in charge of the Friends of Trezevant English Program. This program connects participants in the Refugee Elders program with residents of a local retirement community. The goal is fostering community and further developing English language abilities among the Elders. She was surprised and impressed by the willingness of the retirement community residents to give of their time and energy to their foreign-born contemporaries. And these relationships were important to her, too. She got to know the Elders participants through driving them to the class, and she even spent time outside of the internship at the retirement home with those she had met through the class.
Kristen credits World Relief for helping her develop professional skills, such as confidence, creative problem solving, and resilience. On her very first day of the internship, she was surprised at how much freedom she was given in accomplishing her assignments. But once she recovered from this initial surprise, she came to appreciate the freedom and the confidence it gave her. And when she made mistakes? They only helped her learn about herself and the graciousness of her refugee neighbors. Both the technical experience with refugees and the confidence she gained during her first two semesters as an intern set her up for successful adaptation of her skills for a program in Morocco in the summer of 2018. She was grateful for already having cross cultural experience, as she lived with a host family and worked in a very different culture from the one she was raised in. Ultimately, Kristen hopes to use all of this experience in her career, either in peace and development or in conflict resolution. We are grateful for her work with us and excited to see how she uses her skills in the future!
By Sarah Barnett, Mobilization Intern
Learn more about becoming an academic or summer intern with World Relief Memphis like Kristen and Sarah! Visit HERE for more information and to submit your application.
Savannah Day became interested in refugee resettlement through talking to a high school friend who was involved in a refugee resettlement program in Fayetteville, Arkansas. When she looked for a similar organization near the University of Mississippi, where she was a student, she couldn’t find one. After expanding her search to surrounding cities, she found World Relief Memphis. Her goal was to learn more about social service providers and to be exposed to people from different cultural backgrounds. During her time at World Relief, she learned this and so much more through her work in the Direct Services department, as she engaged with both program participants and World Relief staff. Savannah credits the semester internship she spent at World Relief with sparking her love for those who are different from her and their cultures, even driving her to apply for the Peace Corps after her (virtual) graduation from the University of Mississippi in May 2020.
Savannah’s favorite memory from her time at World Relief is the relationships she built, especially with one particular Muslim family from East Africa. Mohamed, Amina, and their two children had lived in a refugee camp for six years before being invited to enter the United States as refugees. When they arrived, Savannah was at the airport to greet them, and walked alongside them as they adjusted to life in Memphis. She provided transportation and support for both Mohamed and Amina, who was pregnant, at their initial medical and social services appointments after arriving. These included Amina’s prenatal care visits, a topic which Savannah didn’t know much about herself. But she was able to learn alongside Amina, including researching related topics on her own to provide better support. Through accompanying the family to their appointments, Savannah built relationships with every family member as she helped them navigate the systems and culture of the United States. During one of these appointments in the springtime, she had an opportunity to share some of the background and celebrations of Easter after Mohamed asked her a question about the upcoming holiday. That same conversation led to him sharing about the Muslim tradition of Ramadan with her, resulting in mutual respect and better understanding for both of them.
Savannah is grateful for the opportunity she had to both contribute toward and learn from the diversity of Memphis. At the end of the semester, she left with a desire to work in a cross cultural environment and to visit a new place, as she had been inspired by the resilience demonstrated by World Relief program participants. This hope led her to a study abroad experience the following summer in Israel, where she worked with refugees displaced from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She was also able to explore some of the themes she learned about in her internship in an academic context. Her undergraduate senior thesis was on the topic of resettlement policy and recently changed policies’ impact on the work of World Relief and other similar organizations. Her experience at World Relief instilled an interest in this area and gave her impactful experiences and connections from which she could draw in future endeavors.
Before the pandemic hit, she was on track to leave this coming September for a position with the Peace Corps in Morocco. She still hopes that opportunity develops, but has shifted her plans this year to pursue biblical justice for marginalized populations through a Christian fellowship program in New York City. Her time at World Relief changed the way she viewed the church’s role and responsibility to reach out to their vulnerable neighbors, leading her to highly value this trait in a church body. She points the focus back to Jesus as he routinely uplifted people and populations without power in his society. She has had the opportunity to engage with other believers on this topic, even helping to shift some of her family members’ mindsets toward political questions of immigration by discussing these issues through the lens of shared humanity and generosity.
When asked what her advice is to college students considering this internship, she said, “if you have time you should do it, and if not you should make time for it!” We couldn’t agree more!
By Sarah Barnett, Communications Intern
To learn more about our internship programs, read more HERE. Now's the time to apply for an academic internship with us!