Mikayla Clements
Symposium Response
On September 21, 2016 I attended two sessions at the 2016 Symposium. The theme this year was America and the Middle East. I thought that this was a very fitting topic for recent events that have taken place in America and the stigma that surrounds people from the Middle East. I feel like it is very important that we are informed and educated about such a controversial topic right now in America.
The first session that I attended was " Local Voices". This session held a panel of speakers that were from our local community to advocate for refugees. I gained a lot of insight from this session, I did not realize how many people were advocating for refugees in the Fargo/Moorhead area. I was really intrigued by David Myers who spoke on the panel because he was advocating that refugees have a place to practice their religion. It gave me a new perspective, I was always focusing on how can we find them homes and a job, but I never thought about making sure refugees had a place to practice their religion. The panel talked mostly about their roles in helping refugees and Jessica Thomasson who works at the Lutheran Social Services talked about her work with the refugees and what their roles are. Jessica said that mostly their role is to provide resources for these people to make the transition as smooth as it can possibly be. Jessica brought up a point that our job is to make them feel like they are welcomed not just give them the resources and leave them. This gave me a perspective on what it would be like to work with refugees and immigrants as a social worker and I actually had some excitement about it. It seems like it would be very difficult yet a very rewarding experience and just hearing some of the stories that the panel shared about refugees that they have worked with and their successes in America makes me want to help be a part of that change. This session gave me an insight on the necessary steps it takes to help a refugee family and how much work is really put into helping people feel like America is their home. This is something that I could see myself doing as a professional social worker.
The second session that I attended was "What's Your Story? Using Narrative to Foster Empathy". I thought that this session was very fitting for social work as social workers we need to know the feeling of empathy and be able to empathize. This session was actually very eye-opening. During this session it was explained that we all can empathize but sometimes we just do not practice it. So, an organization call Narrative4 has stepped up to create hope through empathy and then put empathy into action. So, what Narrative4 does is story exchange, you exchange your story with a partner and then you each tell each other's stories through first person. The idea of it seemed a bit weird to me at first to be honest but during the session they actually did story exchanges and we got to hear people's stories through their partners. It was inspiring a nd beautiful, the bond that is created between the two partners is sort of magical. I think this is a program that many social workers should go through because it helps build empathy and it also gives you experience on listening and stepping into someone else's shoes. I think Narrative4 can not only just help us with understanding refugees but also just understanding people in general and remembering that we are all human beings and we can all empathize.
The article Refugees in the Arab Middle East: Academic and Policy Perspectives by Anita Fabos was not about America and the Middle East but about the refugees in the Middle East areas. This article explains how the Refugee studies in the Middle East are unabundant and that there is still a sort of sigma around refugees in different areas of the Middle East. This article shined the light on what is happening in the Middle East, I was not aware of