Eva Marcelis, a senior from Seattle Washington spent her summer continuing the work she began last spring with the International Rescue Committee. After interning with a multinational non-governmental organization last semester where she aided in the resettlement of refugees to America, Marcelis was eager to further her experience by traveling overseas to work directly with refugees. With a major in Arabic, she discovered a program with Princeton University that focused on Arabic immersion in Jordan where she was able to connect with the International Rescue Committee office.
By: Molly King
Due to a state department warning released days before she departed, many of Marcelis’ fellow classmates had their scholarships revoked due to the advisory just days before departing. Marcelis was fortunate to receive clearance to continue with the internship with her scholarship still intact. As the only University of Georgia student to participate, she entered into a war-torn region for a two-month stay, knowing no one.
“I worked with the Collateral Repair Project, a refugee camp that is beginning to transition into resettlement. Many of the refugees don’t have access to an education in Jordan, so essentially what I was doing was working with kids aged 10-13 teaching a class in Arabic about civics.”
The goal of the project was to help the refugees find opportunities in Jordan that open up around the city, increasing their chances of finding scholarships for them to enhance their education in the future.
“I also taught an English class and did a little bit of work with some grant writing and United Nations reporting. I really wanted to do field work and be more hands-on with the refugees.”
One of the main focuses of the collateral repair project is lessening the psychological impacts of a refugee lifestyle. With this goal of providing psychological assistance, Marcelis was given the chance to work with the Women’s Empowerment Program while she was there which allowed her to see the full scope of the organization while touching many lives. She helped them with even the most basic activities, such as working on reading or doing crafts, anything to distract from their day-to-day hardships.
The children’s program mirrored this effort.
“As a refugee, the kids don’t get to go to school, and most of them are too traumatized to even want to go to school because of school bombings. We just tried to reassure their safety and allowing them the opportunity to have a glimpse of a normal life.”
In addition to her work with the refugees, Marcelis took classes in Arabic. Although she speaks functional Arabic, she spent the summer immersing herself into the language in an effort to improve her dialect. She regards the experience as greatly improving her overall understanding, as she now speaks colloquial Arabic.
“Overall, the experience was a good affirmation that I am on a career path that I want to continue down, working with refugees. In the future, I don’t necessarily want to be doing casework but I would like to be doing more work with policy and camp management. It has given me the personal and emotional connection to influence policy with the lives of those I helped always in my mind.”
Molly King is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Consumer Journalism with a minor in Communication Studies. She is in her third year as a student assistant with the UGA Sports Communication office.