This summer I interned for the Preferred Communities – Intensive Case Management (PC ICM) team within the Center For New Americans Department of InterFaith Works. Specifically, I did a lot of administrative type work for Sarah Hewitt, the PC ICM Program Manager. This work included filling out social services applications, making medical and wellness appointments, organizing/inventorying client information and funding reports/donated goods/etc., and more. I also helped compile resources for IFW employees and for clients; this included a one-pager about supporting preliterate/non-literate folks in the refugee resettlement case management context and a guide to medical and dental resources across the Syracuse area for clients whose cases are about to close. This internship was and continues to be a really incredible and informative experience both for my understanding of the refugee resettlement system and the experiences of newly resettled refugees in the United States, but also for my future academic and career plans/aspirations, and I am incredibly grateful to the Honors program for their support in pursuing this opportunity.
One thing that surprised me about this experience was just how much work was expected of Sarah Hewitt and other refugee resettlement case managers at IFW and across the US. Case management includes securing folks’ medical/housing/education/employment/mental health/community integration/childcare/etc. needs as well as navigating all of the red-tape/bureaucracy and filling out all of the paperwork/funding reports required by the state and other refugee resettlement regulatory bodies/grant sources. Before this internship I had heard about how overworked case managers like my supervisor Sarah Hewitt are, but experiencing firsthand just how overwhelming it is, in addition to the incredible stress that comes with trying to help folks integrate into a new place often with no resources of their own, was shocking.
I have continued this internship this semester and I am starting my CCE/honors thesis project in partnership with IFW and my supervisor Sarah Hewitt this semester, as well. This project is still in its early stages but I am currently planning on researching the implementation of community sponsorship/co-sponsorship programs in the context of refugee resettlement in other states, and evaluating its potential viability as a way to effectively support recently resettled refugees and lighten the workload of organizations like IFW and case managers like Sarah Hewitt in the socio-economic and political context of Syracuse.