Meet Travis, from Intern to Immigrant Advocate

Volunteer Stories 
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I do not think advocacy for immigrant rights should fall solely on the shoulders of the immigrant community itself. It also falls on the shoulders of those of us who were born in the US to defend the dignity and humanity of immigrants settling here.

by Travis Shingledecker

I started working as an intern for NSC in January, 2016. I was studying abroad in Europe when the European migrant crisis started getting regular coverage in news outlets and was finally being recognized as a humanitarian crisis. When I returned to Philadelphia, I knew I wanted to work with an organization that was serving the refugee community and that was when I found NSC.

I work as a case management intern in the Refugee Employment and Advancement Program (REAP). I work directly with clients to help them navigate barriers to employment in order to secure their first jobs in the US. This overall mission has several components. In the most direct sense, I have worked one-on-one with clients to fill out job applications, compile resumes, go on jobs interviews, and complete job orientations. However, I work diligently with the team to eliminate any barriers that could get in the way of actually acquiring a job. For example, I have helped clients find daycares with flexible hours to watch their children and have also helped clients figure out their budgeting. One project that I worked on was a financial inclusion initiative in which I compiled a guide to both introduce clients to the US banking system and to familiarize them with their banking options in Philadelphia.

Although I have had many remarkable moments working for NSC, one of my favorite memories comes from last June during Pride Month. A few days before the Philly Pride Parade and Festival, a trans client pulled me aside to make sure she knew the itinerary for the weekend and where she needed to go. She told me all about the outfit that she put together for the parade and shared with me how excited she was to be able to walk though the city streets—celebrating who she is alongside people who are like her. For someone who was persecuted for whom she is in her country of origin, the act of celebrating her identity in public alongside her friends and neighbors was a major milestone for her. I will never forget that.

If I could share any advice with people looking to support migrants, it would be this: Do not hesitate, take action. There are several ways you can get involved. If you have the time, volunteer at local agencies to help them carry out their missions. If you have the means, donate money or clothes to these organizations. If you are the owner of a business, consider reaching out to organizations like NSC about hiring migrants. All of these contributions can be instrumental to a migrant’s integration into the United States.

I do not think advocacy for immigrant rights should fall solely on the shoulders of the immigrant community itself. It also falls on the shoulders of those of us who were born in the US to defend the dignity and humanity of immigrants settling here.