Reflection on HIRC Volunteer Experience

By Brittany Adams, MTS ’14

Brittany Adams (33333)As a second-year graduate student at Harvard Divinity School in the Master of Theological Studies program, I have had the privilege to volunteer at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic where I have developed a deeper, more nuanced understanding of immigration and refugee law and the critical, rewarding work that Harvard clinical attorneys and law students invest into their cases. At HIRC, I have had the opportunity to learn more about immigration and refugee law through various exciting tasks, such as: legal research; organizing and closing case files; assisting with office communications through social media; and conducting French translation work. My volunteer experience at HIRC, which has exposed me to diverse immigration and refugee cases, has complemented my course work at the Divinity School and Kennedy School of Government, where I have taken courses that focus on the intersections of religion, ethics, and politics when analyzing the human experience of migration.

In one of my courses, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Ljustice for everyoneatin America, Davíd Carrasco, aptly explains that migrants carry “sacred bundles,” which may include culture, language, religion, music, hopes, dreams, and fears among other contents, as they migrate to host destinations. In fact, I realized today that there is a painting of a migrant woman carrying her own “sacred bundle” in the student workspace at HIRC. This painting, which embodies Professor Carrasco’s message, and my volunteer experience at HIRC, highlights how essential it is to affirm the humanity of migrants and refugees as they navigate a new geographic terrain that poses daunting legal, political, linguistic, and cultural challenges.

As an aspiring refugee attorney myself, I have benefited immensely from watching clinical attorneys, Debbie, Sabi, Emily, and Phil, engage with clients with such tremendous empathy and kindness. When I attend law school in the future, I will constantly be reminded of how important it is to interact with clients with the “human touch” that Debbie, Sabi, Emily, and Phil sincerely convey day-to-day in their legal work. As I graduate from Harvard in May, I will carry my volunteer experience at HIRC as part of my own “sacred bundle” that will undoubtedly inform future social justice work.