A Volunteer’s Passion for Service Rekindled

WR Chicago oct 8 2014 watermark (172)

Shobhana Kasturi has been volunteering with World Relief since December of 2014. As a volunteer attorney, she helps out in our Immigrant Legal Services Department. Conducting legal screenings, co-managing cases, and going to outreach events are just a few of the many tasks she has done to assist our immigration attorneys.

Hannah Kiefer, WRC’s Volunteer Coordinator, had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with Shobhana about her experience.

What has your experience been like helping in our ILS Department?

“. . . I’ve seen clients come in feeling hopeless and dejected, and when they leave after a consultation, there’s a joy and buoyancy because they’ve been given some hope. I feel like each attorney counselor genuinely wants to help.

“It’s not uncommon for [clients] to come in and give mementos, thank you’s, bring in food, etc. Some will come in and sit down and want to chat because now their relationship has evolved. It’s transcended even that [working] relationship. That says a lot about the services that are provided. That says that the client has been touched by the work that has been done.”

What kinds of challenges and/or joys have you experienced during your service?

“. . . the ILS branch of World Relief . . . provides more nurture and care even though [there are] lots of cases that are going through. I don’t feel like the clients are a number. Their advocates know them by name. They know their cases in and out. If you went right now and asked [a staff member] about a case, [they] could rattle off all the details. The level of care is really strong.

“If you have compassion when you’re advocating, it makes such a difference. That’s why they have such a good record.”

Shobhana had additional observations to share.

“[The Department isn’t just] providing them with legal service, but also giving them hope, a small glimmer of hope. The advocacy is not just a mechanical thing, but combined with passion and a desire for success.

“That’s been my experience and that’s why I want to continue to have a connection with ILS WR. That motivates me.”

What kinds of lessons have you learned as a volunteer?

“I have really learned to be more patient. On scale of 1 to 10, I used to be 2 or 3. Now I’m a 9 or 10. It’s been a big contributor. I don’t let things get to me as much, and I try to handle things with more grace.”

Have you grown personally in other ways? If so, how?

“Service has been very important to me, even as a child. Unfortunately, my career took me away from that. . . . [T]his [has] really brought me back to the joy of giving back. I had not been so happy before. It keeps me very grounded. I have a smile back on my face because I love what I’m doing. I love seeing the impact.

“The passion I had as a kid has been kind of re-lit. . . . It’s been life-changing because I see the next two decades of my life [about giving back].”

WANT TO VOLUNTEER?

LEARN|| Read more about our opportunities at worldreliefchicago.org

SERVE|| Fill out your application today!

DONATE|| Busy schedule? You can still help! Provide in-kind or financial donations and make a difference in someone’s life today.

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Interview with a World Relief Case Manager

This is the final post in our three part series on the refugee housing crisis in Chicago. We recommend going back to read our earlier posts that explain the basics of refugee housing and the underlying causes of the crisis

To give you an on the ground perspective of how our resettlement team is handling the refugee housing crisis, this week we interviewed AmyJoy Greenlee, one of World Relief’s Case Managers. AmyJoy joined our resettlement team last December and has quickly jumped into her role serving arriving refugee families from all over the world.

Describe how it has been more difficult to find housing for our arriving refugee families now compared to in the past. 

This has been one of the hardest times ever to find housing for our refugee families. We have a list of landlords we work with, and usually we can find enough housing through this network of connections we’ve made over the years. However, right now there is so much demand for lower income housing in Chicago that the landlords we’ve worked with for years just don’t have units available to rent to our clients.

Another factor is that many refugees arriving in Chicago are now choosing to live in the city for many years after they arrive. In the past, refugee populations were more likely to live in the city for a few years, and then move further out into the suburbs once they got established. For example, many of the Bosnian refugees who arrived in the 90s stayed in the city for a few years, but then moved further out into the suburbs when they could. We’re now seeing groups of people who arrived as refugees stay in neighborhoods such as Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Uptown permanently. 

Is having affordable, safe housing a key factor in helping a refugee family have a smooth transition into their new life in the United States?

Yes, most of our refugees are coming from very difficult situations, so we aim to provide them with stability and protect them from further trauma or fear once they arrive in Chicago. Finding adequate housing in a safe location is a big part of this. In addition, since refugees have by definition spent years running away from their former homes and communities, we recognize the importance of providing them with a space they can call their own.

What do you think that people in Chicago can do to help organizations like World Relief find affordable, safe housing for refugees?

What we need most are connections with landlords who are eager to provide housing to refugees. Although refugees typically arrive with few material possessions or financial wealth, they are a resilient group and become valuable members of their neighborhoods and communities. 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

VOLUNTEER || If you’re interested in volunteering in the area of housing with World Relief Chicago, learn more and fill out an application at worldreliefchicago.org

HAVE A HOUSING LEAD? || If you are a landlord or know a landlord who may be interested in renting an apartment to a refugee family in Chicago, please email chicago@wr.org

GIVE || A tax-deductible gift to World Relief Chicago increases our capacity to tackle challenging issues like finding affordable housing for our refugee clients. Donate online here.