Jennell Rayos, Caritas of Austin

Caritas of Austin is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1964 by Father Richard McCabe to fill the gap between needs of poor and the public assistance they received. In the 1990s, Caritas of Austin bought and renovated the two story building located downtown on 7th and Neches. Recently the building was remodeled. By expanding its physical space, Caritas of Austin can help with the growing demand of people that are in need including: homeless, low income, and the rising number of documented refugees.

People who live in war ravaged and/or civil unrest countries can be forced to flee their country, becoming a refugee. A refugee is an internally displaced and stateless person who is seeking asylum or resettlement in a different country. Refugees follow an admission process mandated by the federal government, which implements rules and regulations through the Department of State Bureau of Populations, Migrations and Refugees. Those who are helped come from diverse nationalities and ethnicities with socio-economic differences. Together all employees, interns and volunteers work together; helping to run multiple programs which are offered by Caritas. However I’ll only mention those that I have worked with, e.g. Match Grant (MG), Cuban Haitian (CH), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Refugee Placement (RP), all which are implemented to help the recently resettled documented refugees.

Once the refugee client(s) are picked up, the Caritas Representative drives the client(s) to their new living quarters. Usually it is a furnished apartment with a futon couch, twin or a full size bed (depending on relationship status: single or married), and table with chairs. A day or two before the client(s) arrive an intern or volunteer will shop at Wal-Mart with a list of things to buy completing the process of apartment setup. Items are purchased for the clients to better help them transition such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, shower curtain and rings, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, toilet brush, set of sheets, pillow, blanket, dishes, silverware, glasses, vacuum, lamp, bulbs, hangers, and a few items of food: milk, bananas, bread, salt and pepper.

Interning in the Resettlement Department has been very knowledgeable. The Resettlement Department focuses on refugees who are seeking refuge from their countries. Their duty is to help the refugee clients adjust to their new way of life, to find a job and become self-sufficient. My duties as an intern consisted of working with the clients directly by taking them to appointments, teaching clients to ride the bus, Wal-Mart shopping, setting up apartments, and making phone calls for the case managers on the behalf of the clients such as, telephone companies, social security office and medical clinics.

I also looked into the eligibility requirements for GED programs and extra resources which may be available to the clients such as, Refugee Services of Texas, American Youth Works, Blue Santa, Coats for Kids and Capital Idea (helping U.S residents and permanent residents find a career). The resettlement department had mandatory meetings every Tuesday at 9:30 am, usually 10-13 people attend. The meetings have weekly agendas including case notes, policy changes and client arrivals.

Interning at Caritas of Austin has been an eye opening experience. I have interviewed some of the resettlement staff and asked plenty of questions during the meetings to understand the dire need for NGOs to help out. While interning I have meet a wide range of people due to the ethnicities, nationalities, religious practices, languages, but most important we have been able to look past and accept all in order to help those in need whether for housing, employment or resettling. The social workers were tolerant, accepting, and willing to help in any way possible. Interning at Caritas has made me realize working with those in need is the greatest feeling, knowing I have helped someone on their way to becoming self-sufficient.