Finding Hope in Strength & Resiliency: My Experience as a CNNC Intern

As a BSW student, I was unsure what to expect when starting my internship with the Immigrant Health Access Project (IHAP) at the Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC). I was not familiar with the resources in the community for immigrants and had limited knowledge of resources for medical care.

In the first week of my internship, I visited numerous agencies within the community that CNNC partners with. I remember being pleasantly surprised by the number of schools and resources in Greensboro specifically dedicated to immigrants and refugees to help them become self-sufficient. However, the excitement quickly started to fade as I realized the gap between the vast need for resources versus the actual availability of resources. There is a significant need for more funding and more resources to help immigrants and refugees.

The reality is many cities and communities’ welcome immigrants into their areas, but policy changes at the federal level have decreased the number of legal ways immigrants can enter the country including the number of refugees at a time when worldwide the number of those forcibly displaced from their homelands has increased dramatically. CNNC does an amazing job of working with what they have and helping so many. They have legal immigration services, interpreters, community centers with tutoring, ESOL classes, and a program to help prepare Latino children for the school system (Thriving at 3).

As a social work intern, I have struggled with the current nativist climate we find ourselves in. I have been frustrated, angry and hurt by the stories of struggle and despair I hear from working directly with the community. However, my supervisor, Kelsey White, IHAP Program Coordinator has been amazing in helping me process these feelings and get to solutions.

It is important as a social worker to focus on the strengths of the client and seek empowerment when working with clients who have experienced and survived immense trauma. What I see in our client’s every day are strength and resiliency. If they can leave their family, their homeland and their culture behind, move to a new and foreign place to make it their home after some of the horrors they have experienced than I can “suit-up” and walk with them through this journey.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working one on one with clients, hearing their stories, seeing their determination and willingness to keep fighting, and being able to support them during a tough transition. Being a member of IHAP I get to help clients connect to medical care, food stamps, disability, and most importantly, be their advocate. Walking through this process with them and watching as we slowly check off goals is a beautiful gift to be able to give. The medical field is a such a difficult area to navigate for someone who is from the U.S., imagine not knowing the system or the country and trying to see a doctor when your child is sick or see a dentist when you have a toothache. IHAP works to make that process less stressful for the client. I am grateful to be an intern with IHAP, to learn about the resources at CNNC and within the community, and to be able to see hope in the client’s face when we leave. This has been an experience that will stick with me for the rest of my career.

Amy O’Hearn, Bachelor of Social Work student at UNC Greensboro, is an intern with the CNNC in the fall of 2019 and spring 2020.