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Eryn Marie E. Reyes '06
I am a Match Grant case manager at Catholic Charities in Phoenix. Match Grant is a federally-funded program designed to help newly arrived refugees find early employment and obtain self-sufficiency. My clients have come from various countries such as Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq. As a case manager, my duties include conducting assessments, presenting Match Grant orientations, and providing Match Grant benefits to program enrollees.
Prior to becoming a Jesuit Volunteer, I had never met a refugee nor did I know the definition of the term “refugee.” Thus, my work at Catholic Charities has been eye-opening. Through my interactions with refugees, I have learned about the dangerous sociopolitical situations back in their homeland and their long journey from the refugee camps to the United States. Furthermore, I have witnessed the challenges they face as they try to build new lives in Arizona.
One profound insight I have gained from my JVC experience concerns solidarity. My parents were immigrants who left the Philippines during martial law in search of opportunities that could not be found in their country. Unlike them, my refugee clients did not leave their homeland by choice. They were forced to flee due to persecution or the threat of persecution. Nevertheless, my parents and my clients shared the same goal: a better life in the U.S. As a daughter of immigrants, my work with refugees has provided a new perspective. Although they have arrived to the U.S. under different circumstances, there is a sense of interconnectedness as our family histories reveal shared values and common goals. Our solidarity reveals our interdependency upon one another, especially in promoting the dignity and common good of each and every person. As a Jesuit Volunteer, I have embarked on one of the most challenging, yet life-giving experiences. I am committed to serving my clients and I stand in solidarity with them. Through my service, I hope they are empowered to build new lives.