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Everyone has a Story

44051304-everyone-has-a-story-text-write-on-paper-Stock-PhotoMy childhood story did not have a lot of color. I grew up going to a school where I could count the number of diverse students on one hand. I came from a town where diversity was not valued…many students were mean to kids from other cultures; they called them names and sometimes even picked fights with them. Even as a child, this always felt wrong to me.

Now as a social work student in my senior year, I wanted to change my story. I wanted an internship where I could engage with people who came from many backgrounds, spoke different languages and had a vast number of experiences. Working at Daily Work for the past six months has been such an enriching experience for me because I have learned that no matter how different our backgrounds, it is easy to get to know other people because we still have so much in common…friends, kids, hopes, dreams, jobs, and just managing everyday life. But yet, each person’s story is still uniquely their own.

As a case manager; it is my job to listen. Our job seekers are experts in their own lives and I am learning through them what kinds of services they need. Meeting them where they are at in their life stories is necessary for their success because they need goals that are achievable, realistic and desirable to them, not to their case worker.

As an intern at Daily Work, I am learning how to help people tell their stories…and create new ones. This skill is essential for me because it enables me to get to know job seekers on a deeper level and build a better working relationship. As I learn about each job seekers’ family situation, home country, culture, and other facts that make them who they are; I find that I am better able to understand them and help them find work that they will enjoy and sustain.

One job seeker, a recent refugee who is about the same age as me, completed his college degree while living in a refugee camp. He told me that there were no jobs, lots of discrimination, and that he often struggled to have a place to live and get enough food. His dream is to get his Master’s degree and become an English professor. I have no doubt that he will do it.

As a college student myself, we have many things in common, yet I cannot imagine what he had to do to complete a college degree under those circumstances. Knowing his story demonstrates to me that he is hard working, tenacious, and resilient and I help him use those skills and others to be successful here.

Getting to know other people’s stories is important in today’s world. It helps us be more compassionate, empathetic people. It shows us that deep down, we all have similar motivations and goals…such as happiness, safety, good relationships, self-sufficiency.

For me, it also makes me aware of how lucky I am to have so much opportunity. At Daily Work, I meet people who risked their lives to move to the U.S. and give their families better lives. I meet people who have struggled in poverty their whole lives…and are still working hard to get better jobs and learn new skills. These stories inspire me every day and give me a new perspective.

If you’re interested in hearing more Daily Work stories, join us on Wednesday, April 26 at our 5th Annual Steps to Success Luncheon (register here)! If that’s not a good day for you, consider helping us conduct mock interviews with job seekers. You can also keep reading our blog and our Facebook page. Whatever way you choose, I hope you are as inspired as I am

By Hannah Van Alstine, Case Management Intern

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