This year as a planning, administration, and policy social work intern at Tabernacle Baptist Church has been both rewarding and challenging. While I have volunteered with illegal immigrants in France, worked in a church community in Haiti, and worked on a sexual and domestic violence crisis hotline during my first year as a graduate student, I have never had the opportunity to work directly with refugees or practice macro social work. Therefore, during the fall semester, I immediately began learning about Burmese refugees, general refugee resettlement in Richmond, began to collaborate with local agencies and began developing two new programs. I became the church representative at the Richmond Refugee Dialogue. During the spring semester, I focused on facilitating and evaluating the financial education class or ‘money class’ as it was often called and had the opportunity to participate in the women’s group.
One of my primary responsibilities as an intern has been to develop, implement, and manage programs. Participating in the Richmond Refugee Dialogue and a group established by interns working in refugee resettlement, has been extremely helpful in developing programs. I have been able to share my ideas for programs and projects with others who are knowledgeable in this area and receive critically important feedback.
The biggest project that I worked on during my year was developing, facilitating, and evaluating a financial education class. I wanted to make the class as culturally relevant and effective as possible and therefore, combined multiple curriculums that were developed for refugees. The class ran from February 2013-March 2013. Baptist Theological Seminary student, Khan Naw, graciously volunteered to be the interpreter for the class. There were a number of obstacles that limited participation in the class for many families including work schedules but there is significant interest in future classes. Through my research I found that there is a positive relationship between participating in the financial education class and improved financial knowledge and financial management behaviors. It is my sincere hope that this class will be continued through the use of tutoring and mentors teaching at individual families’ homes.
Another project that I worked on was a website. I initially developed it in October 2012 after I noticed a need to coordinate support to Burmese families. Since then, it has developed into a resource center and online discussion forum where any church member can log onto it and find information on Burma, working with Burmese refugees, research on financial education, and curricula to teach. It is a dynamic website and therefore, anyone can upload resources that they find useful. It is my hope that this website will continue to develop and be used as central location to access resources and research.
This internship has provided me with an incredible experience. I have been able to apply many of the concepts and theories from my classes to my work with planning and developing programs. Pastor Sterling gave me significant autonomy with my tasks which has encouraged me to strengthen and practice my management, leadership, advocacy, planning and my critical thinking skills. It was wonderful to be able to come to the women’s group every week this semester and spend time getting to know many of the incredible women at Tabernacle and many of the children. It has truly been a blessing and humbling experience to work with families at Tabernacle Baptist Church through church celebrations, weekly tutoring, fellowship meals, and working collaboratively to plan programs. I feel honored and blessed to have interned at Tabernacle. Even though, I am moving away from Richmond, then entire church community will continue to be in my prayers and I look forward to seeing what amazing things God will accomplish through His church here in Richmond.