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EWU student Leah Wilson helps provide relief to refugees from war-torn countries

EWU+senior+Leah+Wilson+is+studying+international+affairs
EWU senior Leah Wilson is studying international affairs

EWU senior Leah Wilson is studying international affairs

Contributed by Leah Wilson

Contributed by Leah Wilson

EWU senior Leah Wilson is studying international affairs

By Colette-Janae Buck, Chief Copy Editor

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Leah Wilson, an EWU senior studying international affairs with a concentration in global socioeconomics and a minor in German, has always been passionate about the global refugee crisis.

After dedicating her entire senior capstone project to researching the European Union’s refugee crisis and the actions taken to resolve it, Wilson was recommended an internship at World Relief Spokane by her professor Kristen Edquist, Ph.D.

“She suggested the organization because she knew my deep interest in the refugee crisis and felt that this was a great hands on opportunity that would contribute to my education,” said Wilson via email. “When I started to look more into the organization, I felt that it was a great way for me to get involved with the refugee community in Spokane.”

Wilson, who was invited to present her capstone research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, said her work at World Relief has really helped shift her focus on the refugee crisis from just a researcher’s perspective to a humanitarian perspective.

“I have been able to use some of my research to understand the global refugee crisis and understand the different vetting processes in developed countries,” said Wilson via email. “I have also been able to use my knowledge to advocate for the refugees that have come or are trying to come to the states. A lot of times people are misinformed and I feel that as a person educated on the subject, it is my responsibility to share the political realities of the refugees crisis.”

Wilson still currently works with World Relief Spokane as an intern in the resettlement and placement division, driving refugees to doctor’s appointments, helping enroll both adults and children in English courses and primary and secondary public schools.

“I work with a variety of programs that assist refugees in the first 90 days they are in the country,” said Wilson via email. “We are responsible for their arrivals, setting them up with housing, scheduling medical visits and eventually employment.”

Gerald Maib for The Easterner
Wilson’s research focuses on the European refugee crisis

When I arrived to the World Relief office in downtown Spokane, I saw Wilson briefly before she disappeared with a few of the refugees to take them to their doctor’s appointment where they were going to get x-rays completed. Her interactions with them weren’t anything special. In fact, the interactions between all of the refugees and the World Relief staff were just simple human discussions, the sharing of words between a few years, and yet, the refugees were so grateful and constantly saying thank you to those they were interacting with.

“I am fortunate to have a very hands-on role with the clients,” said Wilson via email. “I have the privilege of discussing, supporting and helping them as they adapt to their new environment and welcome them to America.”

Reflecting on her time at World Relief and the things she has seen and done throughout the course of her internship, Wilson said that her understanding of the complexities of human refugees has broadened, and so has her understanding of her own inner-self.

Abbi Vance for The Easterner
World relief provides resettlement services

“I have realized that there is so much more to a refugee’s life than fleeing from war or persecution,” said Wilson. “I have a whole new understanding of privilege and the fact that I was born within [U.S.] borders; I am given so many opportunities that many people in the world don’t have. I have learned the work that it takes to run and sustain an organization like World Relief and hope that with my future career, I will be able to make a difference in more people’s lives.”

For Wilson, the moments where she and a client were sitting down, talking about life and having discussions while in the waiting room of a doctor’s office and discussing life have been one of the most rewarding parts of working and interning with World Relief.

“We have also had many casual conversations about sports and scenery, which usually includes a lot of laughter from the language barriers.”

But perhaps the most humbling and rewarding moment of them all for Wilson is when clients first arrive in the United States at the Spokane International Airport and the look of relief spreads over their faces so smoothly.

“There are not many moments I don’t love about my internship. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work with this community and am happy to see it grow in Spokane.”  

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