Martha Berhane is currently serving at CARACEN in Washington D.C.
Gratitude: that is one thing that I have definitely taken away so far at my placement in the Loretto Program. Gratitude for my rights, privileges, and power in this country. My placement is at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) as an immigration paralegal. My days consistent of providing legal services to client in a variety of immigration matters. The workday always has a certain amount of excitement involvement, the excitement of a new legal puzzle to solve. A few of our services includes renewing greencards, applying for citizenship, and renewing legal status for undocumented youth called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It allows eligible young people under 25 to continue to work and study without the fear of deportation, which allows them to move a bit closer to their American Dream. Seeing all the money, time, and headache from paperwork immigrants have to go through in order to operate in this society makes me appreciate my rights I’ve had as a US citizen from the time of birth. My family immigrated from Eritrea, a country in East Africa. My Loretto placement at CARECEN has made me appreciate the sacrifice made in order for me to be able to have the opportunities not available to my parents at my age in a different country. The opportunity to work in my job of choice, to study in my field of interest, and to serve in wonderful social justice centers such as CARECEN. I appreciate my placement for the activities I’ve been able to do both inside and outside the office.
This past Thursday my supervisor sent me to attend the 5th Virginia Immigrant Advocates Summit in Annandale, Virginia. The summit brought together hundreds of immigrant rights advocates and supporters to discuss and act on issues impacting immigrant families in Virginia. Organizations and professionals from different walks of life were in attendance at the summit including: community organizers, refugee and human rights lawyers, employment centers, educators, immigrant aid organizations, and health professionals. It was truly inspiring to see such a wide variety of groups participate in the summit and share a common goal for advancing immigrant rights in the US. I felt honored to represent CARECEN at the event and hear from the exciting and insightful workshops.
This volunteer year with Loretto has taught me to be grateful for every blessing I’ve been granted in my life and every opportunity I have to pay it forward- such as working at a placement as rewarding as CARECEN. It is great to come home to a supportive community at the Junia House to vent with, to laugh with, and to bond with. To commit to social justice work is not an easy task, but it helps to have wonderful roommates that understand the stress that comes with having demanding placement positions. It helps that we all take the time to reflect on our personal and communal during much-needed weekly community nights. Whenever I feel like complaining about a stressful moment or feel overwhelmed by a hectic life, I like to think about something my economics adviser once told me, “what wonderful problems to have”. Sometimes the lowest moment is actually a gift in disguise, the gift of wisdom from growing from our past mistakes and appreciating our blessings along the way.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.