In struggling with the difficulties of our clients, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Just Neighbors staff and volunteers are a vibrant group of individuals who possess their own goals and motivations. According to Just Neighbors’ Operations Director Stephanie Barnes, “approximately 30 percent of Just Neighbors volunteers are immigrants or first-generation Americans. Some of the volunteers are lawyers and professionals in their own country but lack the experience of working and networking in the U.S. In working at Just Neighbors, our volunteers achieve a dual purpose: they accumulate experience working in a law firm office environment while also providing hope and support to vulnerable immigrants and asylees.
Recently, two of our volunteers, both of whom were attorneys in their countries of origin, used their time at Just Neighbors as springboards for their career goals: Leticia, who emigrated from Mexico and who has her work permit as she waits for her green card, worked primarily as a Spanish translator and just accepted a job as a paralegal, while Loujayen who came from Syria and is in the process of applying for asylum, served as an Arabic translator and has started a job as a legal secretary/paralegal. Both volunteered for more than six months at Just Neighbors before they had received these job offers, helping with translation as well as with general office work. In their departing messages to Just Neighbors, both translators thanked the organization not only for the opportunity to earn professional experience, but also for letting them join the mission of helping those who need it most. They, along with the other volunteers who worked with and moved on from Just Neighbors, share the vision of all immigrants as valuable parts of their communities. We will miss them, but are very happy that their time at Just Neighbors was of value to them in their careers.