Family traditions inspire spring intern, Ibssa

By Bailey Clark

Ibssa may have only been interning with World Relief Memphis for a month now, but he can already see the difference that the experience has had on his life.

Part of an immigrant family himself, Ibssa began his internship hoping to gain “first-hand experience with people in such situations outside of just [his] own family . . . This is a bit more in-depth because you have more types of circumstances to work with.”

At 21-years-old, Ibssa has grown up in Memphis, but his family comes from a long line of “influencers,” as he would say, in Ethiopia. His uncle is a famous musician, and his great-grandfather once traded with the king himself when the monarchy was still in place. 

With a family history such as his, it’s only natural that Ibssa wants to one day be the best in his field as a clinical psychologist. However, he wants to go one step further by serving other immigrants as well.

“My interest has always been wanting to work with immigrants and different people who come, and [those] who come through trauma related reasons,” said Ibssa, a senior at Christian Brothers University. “A lot of people who do come here come usually do to very difficult events or dangerous situations.”

And at World Relief Memphis, Ibssa is getting his first glimpse of what that could be like by serving in our Integration Services Department, helping contact program participants and assisting them in setting up their new life in the U.S.

“It’s going to be something that will vary each week,” Ibssa explains. “It’s helping them get whatever they need and keeping up with their plans or their goals, and just basically facilitate that process so that they get exactly what they need and where they need to be, and feel motivated in their own right.”

As someone who has learned multiple languages himself, Ibssa understands what it can be like to communicate in a language that’s not your own, and he’s enjoyed helping program participants in any way he can. But, they’ve also influenced him as well.

“I first met a Swahili client this Wednesday, and I just fell in love with the way that language sounded,” said Ibssa, who currently speaks English, Spanish and Oromo. “It was just so beautiful to me, and I was like I have to learn this.”

By adding Swahili to his list, Ibssa will be one step closer to becoming a polyglot, and one step closer to opening his practice that will one day serve other immigrants in the community, just as World Relief does.

Having grown up with Ethiopian and American traditions, Ibssa is no stranger to balancing two cultures, just like many of our refugee families do now. That, in itself, is in part what drew him to World Relief. And as future interns begin arriving this summer, Ibssa urges them to be open minded. If you do, he says, you will have so much to gain.

“You can learn so much from different people. Your eyes will open to just how expansive culture, language, experiences and though processes can be,” Ibssa says. “Just how resilient some people are who come from maybe hard situations. It’s just the fact that people can connect no matter where you’re from.”

Perhaps one day, Ibssa’s name will be known for his work with immigrants, just like his great-grandfather’s and his uncle’s names were celebrated before him. Yet for now, we are thrilled to have him working with us in Memphis this semester as he finishes his undergraduate degree.

“Come and be open-minded,” Ibssa says. “You’ll be so surprised by what you see.”

If you’re looking for a summer internship, we are currently accepting applications! Apply here, and we’ll be in touch with you for any additional information or interviews. If you are not looking to intern but still want to get involved, check out the volunteer opportunities we have available.

Bailey Clark serves as the Communications Coordinator for World Relief Memphis. With a background in journalism and advertising, she is passionate about storytelling and its power to make a difference.