October 5, 2018 at 5:31 pm

Internship | Rife Saw Survivors Beam with Joy, Immigrants Hold Back Tears

Editor’s Note: Last summer five OHIO students received Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty summer internships. During an Action on Inequality Week panel discussion, titled “How I Spent My Summer,” five interns reflected on their experiences.

Franchesca Rife (second from right) with other interns at Tapestri

Franchesca Rife (second from right) with other interns at Tapestri.

By Franchesca Rife
Sociology major and Wealth & Poverty Certificate
Interned as legal advocate at Legal advocate at Tapestri Inc. in Atlanta

This past summer I interned through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty in Atlanta, Ga., at a non-profit organization called Tapestri Inc.

Tapestri is dedicated to ending violence and oppression in refugee and immigrant communities, using culturally competent and appropriate methods.

Throughout my internship this summer, I saw survivors of domestic violence beam with joy and excitement after passing their driving permit exams. I saw intense looks of relief on their faces after routine immigration appointments, from which they feared they would be arrested and deported. I saw them desperately try to hold back tears of fear when their restraining orders were not granted. I sat in their apartments or in parking lots with them while they recounted detailed descriptions of the nightmarish trauma they had endured.

My internship experience began at the Sheppard consortium opening conference in Washington, D.C. The opening conference did a fantastic job of preparing me and the other interns for many different facets of our internships. We spent time in small groups discussing issues of poverty and how to properly interact with clients. A large portion of time was also dedicated to preparing us for living in new cities with our cohorts and budgeting our per diem stipends. The time spent at the opening conference was extremely helpful in making sure I had the right tools to make the most of my summer.

While in Atlanta, I worked in the Domestic Violence Department of Tapestri, and their focus is to legally advocate for victims of domestic violence in immigrant and refugee communities. My duties as an intern varied greatly, but my main jobs were to help prepare immigration petitions, provide transportation for clients, and help with intakes and donations. Through assisting with immigration petitions, I learned so much about the immigration process and just how difficult it is to be granted a visa, even if you are a victim of domestic violence.

It was an interesting time to be involved in this kind of work due to the current political climate surrounding immigration. One of the many valuable things that I took away from this experience is just how many misconceptions exist pertaining to the immigration process, immigrants themselves, and refugees. I also got to see firsthand how policies affect the lives of these individuals and the organizations that seek to assist them.


Transporting clients and attending various appointments with them was by far the most meaningful part of my experience. I was initially very nervous about interacting with clients because I was worried about saying or doing the wrong things. However, Tapestri trained me on how to effectively communicate with survivors of trauma and stressed the importance of cultural competency. This training eased my worries and made me feel a lot less anxious about assisting clients one-on-one.

I drove clients to immigration appointments, to take their driving permit tests, to get groceries, and I helped move them into apartments and sign leases. I was often presented with various challenges, but the clients and I worked together to get through barriers we encountered. I didn’t know how a lot of these bureaucratic processes worked and neither did they, but we supported each other through the uncertainty and anxiety of what were often very high-stakes situations.

I learned so much during my internship experience that it is difficult to articulate all of it.

One major thing I took away was that the immigrant and refugee populations in this country are extremely vulnerable in situations of domestic violence. Clients were often psychologically manipulated by their abusers to believe that they could be nothing in this country without them, that citizens here had incredible disdain for them, and that if they sought help they would be deported and lose their children. Their abusers would also often hide or destroy a client’s existing immigration paperwork. For all of these reasons, organizations like Tapestri are incredibly necessary. They give their client’s hope for a better life and help them achieve it in any way possible.

As I said earlier, I don’t quite know how to articulate everything that I learned from these experiences. To be honest, I’m still processing a lot of it. But what I do know is that these experiences were very important ones for me to have. I have seen resilience like I never had before. I am a different person now. I am more inspired, more passionate, and more determined to assist those who have been disadvantaged by a system that grants wealth and prosperity to a few but scarcity and neglect to many. My time spent as a Shepherd Higher Education Consortium intern this summer was invaluable, and I am so thankful for having the opportunity to participate in the program.

Four Other Interns

Emily Walter (Geography): Food Justice Organizer at New Roots, Inc., Louisville, KY.  Just like air and water, everyone has a right to fresh food. New Roots works with fresh food insecure communities to create sustainable systems for accessing the farm-fresh food we all need to be healthy and happy. In a nutshell, they are uniting communities to spread food justice.

Bailey Williams (Economics): Legal Assistant for the Richmond Public Defender’s Office, Richmond, VA. The Richmond Office of the Public Defender represents both adults and juveniles charged with criminal offenses in the City of Richmond. They are dedicated to protecting and defending the rights and dignity of our clients through zealous, compassionate, high quality legal advocacy. The office advises clients, empowers them to make decisions and advocate on their behalf in court.

Kayla Wood (Journalism): Advocacy Intern for United Planning Organization, Washington, D.C.  United Planning Organization includes educators, dream builders, opportunity-makers and poverty-fighters. UPO believes that everyone deserves a chance to pursue and live sustainable, successful lives. Their approach is holistic and generational. As the only Community Action Agency serving the residents of Washington, D.C., they have touched thousands of lives over the last 50 years. They offer more than 30 programs and human services assisting everyone from newborn babies to senior adults.

Serena Zhou (Social Work): Criminal Justice and Re-entry Program Intern at the U.S. Federal Court, Camden, NJ.  Every year hundreds of federal inmates are released from prison and return to their communities. Of those released many face significant barriers to successful reintegration back into society. Several of these barriers are legal in nature, such as outstanding child support payments, difficulty in receiving benefits, lack of identification, driver’s license suspensions, and other civil legal issues. To that end, The Rutgers School of Law-Camden, in conjunction with United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, has established the Federal Prisoner Reentry Project. The goal of the Project is to work closely with the United States Office of Probation to identify potential clients with civil legal issues that prevent successful re-integration into society.

About the SHECP Internships

According to the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium website, these internships are designed to offer the students an opportunity to “learn firsthand about the multiple dimensions of poverty in the United States by working for eight weeks to strengthen impoverished communities and working alongside individuals seeking to improve their communities.”

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