Emily loved teaching at Exodus Refugee, but in January things changed rapidly. “A week after the inauguration, the first Executive Order happened, and that’s when the ball started rolling,” she says, “We realized we were losing funding; we were losing clients in general, and we were going to be losing staff as well.” Exodus was forced to downsize drastically, and Emily lost her job in the shuffle.
Lacy Panyard knew from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to be an attorney. But it was a study abroad trip to Mexico with her school at the age of 17 that helped determine her specialty. She says, “While I was down there, I saw people who were wealthy and who have everything they need. They’re living better than us. And then I saw the people who are 5-year-olds, out on the street, selling gum and homemade goods because they don’t have food on the table.”
Audrey’s first in-person introduction to the Clinic was through volunteering during Refugee Adjustment Day (RAD Day) in October of 2015. On that day, she witnessed dozens of immigrants and volunteer attorneys and staff working together to submit paperwork to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help refugees apply for their Legal Permanent Residence. On that day, Audrey remembers entertaining a Congolese woman’s three children, drawing pictures together while their mother worked with an attorney. By late afternoon, the woman’s paperwork was completed and her eyes filled with tears of joy. This experience especially convinced Audrey of the Clinic’s impact. She says, “Once these clients become more than just numbers, when they become faces, become names, when they are personalities that you come to know, it really changes the game. It makes it very personal, very urgent.”
This April, we explored the idea of Abundant Wisdom, with Chris providing our introduction at the beginning of the month. We then took an especially close look at how wisdom applies to financial matters. We learned more about our Building Wealth program and about what to do if you get an examination letter back from the IRS. We also met a woman who was given a second chance thanks to the hard work of Project GRACE.
Rachel VanTyle, the lead staff attorney for RAD, adds that mass volunteer events like this are important for the community and for efficiency’s sake. She says, “What it would take me 4 months to do, we can do in 8 hours with this many volunteers.” Such days also give the Clinic the opportunity to provide services for which we might lack funding. Rachel explains that each application, if completed by a paid attorney, would cost roughly $500 per client. Therefore, by relying on volunteers to help so many people at once, the Clinic is able to provide more than $25,000 worth of services that might otherwise be impossible.
The beauty and effectiveness of this relationship is perhaps most keenly evinced by our collaboration on Refugee Adjustment Day, when the Clinic and College Park come together at the end of April to assist dozens of refugees in obtaining their green cards. These kinds of works are a natural consequence of the Body of Christ partnering with one another. Dale explains, “You do life together under the umbrella of the Gospel and really good things happen.”