Social Justice and Social Change Praxis Fieldwork Seminar
Faculty Advisor: David Karen
Field Site: Nationalities Services Center
Field Supervisor: Brianna Andrews
Praxis Poster:Ani Dixit_Final Poster
“We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”- Former President Barack Obama
To direct my anthropological and sociological exploration, as well as further my skills to be a more effective social advocate, I participated in the fieldwork seminar Social Justice and Social Change interning with the Survivors’ Services (SS) under the Refugee Community Integration department/Refugee resettlement program in the Nationalities Service Center (NCS) of Philadelphia. I worked with the Anti-Human Trafficking Team (AHT). I have gained a much deeper understanding of the complexities that exist within public benefits, advocacy work, resource allocation, and how small tasks can be the first steps into larger social change.
Under guidance of AHT case manager Bianca Taipe, I worked directly with 7 clients who had undergone human trafficking and indirectly with 15 clients under the umbrella of Survivor Services.
I helped to create, lead, and facilitate 5 different support groups for the 7 Hindi-speaking refugees. Prior to my involvement, there had not been an organized support for this group of refugees as many were pre-literate and could only speak Hindi. As a Hindi-speaking language advocate I ensured that the refugees were getting full access to all of the resources NSC has to offer.
The first support group I facilitated was entitled “Navigating Challenging Emotions” wherein we discussed the horrifying experiences and traumatic emotions that arise from human-trafficking. We used trauma-informed care and deployed strategies to avoid re-traumatization. We also discussed mental health resources, and used an open forum to talk about challenges with adjusting to living in the U.S. We further reviewed self-kindness practices, and worked on recognizing individual strengths. I helped to create content, as well as materials for the support group including flyers in both English and Hindi that were sent to clients. I further sent messages and placed calls to the refugees, ensured PowerPoints were accessible, and acted as a second translator during the support group meetings to facilitate communication.
The second support group explored how to use the public transport in Philadelphia (buses, trolley, train line), and what landmarks and cultural sites they can visit. The third support group encompassed a presentation to familiarize them with their interpretation rights and a workshop on how to ask for an interpreter when going outside of the NSC for an appointment (including going to a hospital for mental or physical health care, pharmacies, or visa offices).
The fourth support group assisted with learning about the DMV and how to obtain a driver’s license. The final support group was a feedback meeting without any case managers present to hold an open forum wherein refugees provided feedback on programs that worked well within the NSC, and what could be improved to best assist them in their journey without fear of retaliation.
Client Accompaniment and Advocacy
When possible, I accompanied clients to appointments and tasks including going to doctor’s appointments, pharmacies for COVID vaccines, to stores to get phone plans in the role of an advocate to assist with questions about the process and mitigate any challenges. When I was unable to physically join the refugees to their appointments due to my own class and work schedule, I helped by preemptively creating maps and directions (in English and Hindi) to ensure that they could make it to the new location. Additionally, I created and provided them with a template on how to ask for an interpreter when they reach their destination.
I indirectly assisted many clients of Survivor Services through local resource accumulation such as collecting information on all the nearby places in Philadelphia that serve hot, fresh, nutritious meals. This was especially useful for a client with medical problems who also benefited greatly by my calling to ensure the client was eligible for the services that were available. Additionally, I assisted clients with their driver’s license test. I also provided information on nearest nursing programs, and libraries that are walking distance from the client’s home.
Connection to Class
Class fieldwork allowed me to implement ideas of frameworks of structures within society, how one can fit within that structure in order to lead social change, and understand/avoid potential power dynamics. Through my personal academic readings, I found a study which reviewed services for sexual assault survivors in Texas published in 2022. They found that the best ways to ensure that victims have the best experience with services and recovery is to ensure that there are no limitations on times of service, consistent trauma-informed practices, nearby service locations, and plentiful information provided to survivors. In order to ensure there are no gaps in my work with the AHT clients, I made an effort to ensure that support groups sessions were held on times that were easy for them to take part in such as during lunch hours, on days off from work or, in the evenings from 6-7pm after office hours when they are back at home. Moreover, I completed all trauma-informed care trainings and avoided retraumatization. I provided multi-pronged assistance, by meeting in-person at the NSC office, went to the refugees’ homes for accompaniment, and also held support groups online so they can join from any location. Further, I made sure to make NSC programs available in their native tongue and frequently called to check in.
Praxis has been a phenomenal journey for me. I am exceptionally grateful that I have been able to participate in it. It gave me a special and deeply important opportunity to apply the theoretical frameworks accumulated through years of study at Bryn Mawr College to practically impacting lives of humans deeply affected by traumatic experiences– Linking words in a book to direct action and constructive change. This experience could not have been possible without the guidance, direction, and support of Nell Anderson & Dr. David Karen at Bryn Mawr College and Brianna Andrews & Bianca Taipe at the Nationalities Service Center. Thank you all so much.
Kellison, B., Sookram, S.B., Camp, V., Sulley, C., Susswein, M., McCarty-Harris, Y., Dragoon, S., Kammer-Kerwick, M., & Busch-Armendariz, N. (2022). Voices of Texas sexual assault survivors : Services, gaps, and recovery journeys. Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, The University of Texas at Austin.