2020 PFIG Recipient Paige Kobza

Jessica Meyers

Journal Entry #1

This summer, I am working for the International Rescue Committee in Charlottesville with their Family Support and Interpreter Services departments. As a Public Policy major with an interest in the intersections of health, community, and non-profits, the IRC provides a unique opportunity to experience this intersection on a local level. Our internship began with a general orientation, that explained the mission of the IRC, and the refugee populations the organization typically serves. I then began working with two different departments in the IRC: Family Support and Interpreter Services.

With the Family Support department, I am working with the Medical Case Manager to help facilitate positive and sustainable relationships between the IRC’s clients and local medical organizations. From this role, I hope I can understand better about how the IRC has created a care network for their clients, and how they work to lower common barriers to healthcare access. I am excited to learn more about this network and see the work that is put in behind the scenes to make it happen. With Interpreter Services, I am working to help manage their contracted interpreter network. This is a primary way that the IRC obtains sustained funding—which is extremely important to their operations as a non-profit. This position is a lot of managing behind the scenes as well and has already provided me with some insight into the internal workings of a nonprofit.

Overall, I feel like I have already learned a lot in the past three weeks of the beginning of this internship. Not only have I been exposed to new experiences in the realm of non-profits, I still am able to talk and form relationships with my supervisors, despite the work currently being remote. I am excited to develop my communication and managerial skills over the next few weeks, while also learning more about the resources the IRC provides for refugee populations in Charlottesville.

Journal Entry #2

In the past two months, I have learned a lot from working with the International Rescue Committee. While I went into the internship with the expectation that it would be flexible and knowing that the responsibilities in nonprofits are always shifting, this has become even more apparent. Particularly with the Family Support department, the needs are ever-changing. A large part of this is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—seeing on a firsthand level just how much the pandemic is affecting access to and ability to maintain routine health checkups is quite eye-opening. As someone who is interested in health policy, it has been helpful to see how certain policies or resource systems play out on an individual level and impact clients personally. It has given me a chance to see the implementation of public policy firsthand, which is often something we discuss in our public policy classes, but rarely get to truly interact with.

Working with the Interpreter Services department has also taught me a lot thus far. I’ve done a lot of administrative work scheduling which has caused me to really practice and develop clear and efficient communication skills. Working with the Family Support department has shown me how interconnected all departments are with Interpreter Services—it is so important for clients to be able to communicate with full agency, and interpreters often help with that process.  It’s been interesting to see how the two departments overlap and rely on one another, even if they do operate differently at times. The variation in responsibilities for each has helped me start to develop a wide array of experiences and skills.

I am about to start a new project that will evaluate client satisfaction within the IRC. I am extremely excited about this project, as it will allow the IRC to see what they are doing well, and where they may have room for improvement.  I think self-evaluation is critical for any organization, so I am excited to be a part of this. Additionally, I have never personally worked to develop and administer a survey on this scale, so I hope I learn more about how to ask effective and valuable questions. While I still have about a month left of this internship, the connections and experiences I have had thus far have helped me define a much clearer picture of what nonprofit work can look like.

Journal Entry #3

Over the course of my internship, I ended up working across multiple different departments including Family Support, Interpreter Services, and general Case Management. While they originally seemed like they would entail quite different responsibilities, I quickly learned that they were fairly intertwined. One obvious way this appeared was that interpreters were crucial for communicating certain information with clients, particularly transportation, which was an issue I worked pretty closely with. A less obvious way I learned one of these connections came from aiding my supervisor in editing her journal article about establishing care systems. Providing interpreters in medical settings is essential to create effective communication systems between patients and providers, and is a resource that the IRC’s Interpreter Services department helps in establishing. Through these different roles, I was able to really take a look into the inner workings of a nonprofit such as the IRC.

This experience gave me a lot of insight to what I would like to pursue in the future.  In addition to having an interest to see how nonprofits operate, I also hoped to see health policy implemented on an individual level in going into this internship. One of my primary responsibilities this summer was working with clients and Medicaid to arrange transportation to medical appointments. This seems like a simple task, but actually is one that is both fairly complicated and tedious. For someone who is interested in shaping broad health policy in the future, I think experiences like this are important to keep in mind. Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in the broader scope and forget that these individual interactions are some of the most important aspects of policy implementation.

While I have not yet finished the survey of client feedback, working on it so far has been really interesting to identify trends of where IRC services might be able to improve. Like I mentioned in my last journal entry, I think self-evaluation is incredibly important for organizations, especially when thinking about accountability. As I finish this project, I hope I can contribute valuable feedback for the organization to use moving forward. For anyone working with this internship in the future, my advice would be to be flexible. Responsibilities are often changing, and being open to new opportunities will allow you to get the most out of this experience.