Andrea Matz (MID '12)
As a MID Human Security student, my classes have focused on what happens in developing countries, conflict areas, and refugee camps and how NGOs and other international actors address the problems and concerns facing each area. My summer (2011) internship with Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh Refugee Services was the perfect complement to my GSPIA education because it opened my eyes to the “other” side of international development and refugee assistance.
I volunteered with a similar organization in the past; however, this internship found me more than I found it. During the Spring term at GSPIA, I had the opportunity to attend Pitt’s NGO Career Fair where Catholic Charities was represented. Several weeks later, I was surprised to receive a phone call from Catholic Charities. While they didn’t have a posted internship with Refugee Services, they felt my skills and previous experience would work extremely well within the department and offered me a chance to interview for an internship.
Since the initial resettlement period for new refugees was over when I began working, my main focus was on employment services of our refugee clients. My daily tasks crossed the spectrum of employment and general social services of Catholic Charities including providing community orientations to familiarize the clients with Pittsburgh and its transportation system, assisting with homemaking and life-skills training, providing and monitoring pre-employment training and education including resume building and interview skills. Furthermore, I accompanied clients to job interviews and worked with various employers to address concerns and questions.
Interning with Refugee Services provided me opportunities to develop my management skills, improve my patience, understanding, and compassion when dealing with refugees and individuals who have faced significant hardships in their lives, understand the never-ending cycle of reporting that goes into NGO management, and gain practical field experience essential to a future career in international development. It has been a wonderful and refreshing experience because the clients with whom I worked have been so gracious and thankful. I have seen the process from beginning to end – from helping clients with no job experience get hired for the first time to seeing clients successfully have a job for 6+ months. In fact, Catholic Charities was willing to keep me on as a part-time intern to enable me to experience the initial resettlement process that will begin in the Fall.