In nearing our last week I am reflecting on where it all began in Little Havana and the relationships we’ve forged, both with our work sites and with each other. Being at this stage, I wonder what I would tell myself at the beginning of this program. I accept surprises, but that does not necessarily mean I enjoy them. Given this, I would probably tell myself to expect to miss aspects of homes (West Virginia, Georgia, and Duke which I consider a home of sorts) more than I thought I would. I found myself comparing the little lizards that sometimes dart in front of us to the fearless squirrels that populate Duke’s campus and wanting to talk to my sisters more than I usually do.
I also would remind myself about that summertime sadness. The sadness and nostalgia that comes after I realize summer is almost over and that I’m about to return to school. This summertime sadness is mitigated by the great memories I have made and lessons I have learned. I have learned not only lessons about myself, but also about the functioning of NGO’s and the wide array that exist and issues they address. About myself I have learned that I am capable of a new level of self-discipline. Waking up early and going to work with no other motivation than the work itself is different than the motivation that drives my academic performance. Moreover, I learned the importance of enjoying one’s career. There is a sense of fulfillment that exists when you believe in the mission of your organization and enjoy what you do. My experience at Haitian Women of Miami these past several weeks is a testament to these self-discoveries.
Working with an immigrant population in the second half of DukeEngage has made the current debate surrounding immigration reform even more topical than it already was. I think we as a nation should really question what type of nation we want to be. Historically, we have not always immediately embraced immigrants (the Irish were denigrated as disease-ridden sub-humans when they first arrived for example) and I hope that our current treatment of refugees, immigrants, and those perceived as ‘different’ (Muslims, Arabs, brown peoples in general) is not another blight in our extensive history of social injustice.
In one of our last lectures, Ritika and I prepped our students for their upcoming English test, prepared a presentation about the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program which we gave to the Haitian Prime Minister, and drafted an op-ed about the humanitarian crisis on the border. I anticipate that saying goodbye to our students will be one of the more emotionally straining aspects of saying goodbye to Miami. We will also have to come to terms with not knowing the future of all the people we have worked with this summer. I would like to think that life treats them well going forward. Goodbye Miami.