An intern at Opening Doors Inc, Patt helped to resettle refugees in her hometown of Sacramento
By Emma Grillo///Features Editor
For Julie Patt ’16, the refugee crisis hit a little closer to home this summer. The Psychology major spent her summer back in her hometown of Sacramento, interning with Opening Doors Inc, a local refugee resettlement agency.
“It’s just something I’ve heard about for a while, and seeing all the hate being slung at people this whole political season, I felt like I had to do something,” Patt said.
Opening Doors Inc. works with refugees for a 90-day period providing a variety of services, from helping families secure affordable housing, to navigating the social security and welfare systems.
“The last thing they need is to arrive in this, what’s supposed to be their new home, and find it to be a hostile environment.”
Patt interned with various caseworkers, who followed refugees for their first 90 days in the U.S. In preparation for a refugee’s arrival, Patt and caseworkers would secure affordable housing for the incoming refugees, as well as set up the various appointments that would occupy their first couple weeks in the U.S.
On the day of arrival, Patt and caseworkers would pick up their clients from the airport, and bring them to their new homes. The next day would be mainly dominated by an intake interview, where the organization would provide clients with a cellphone, as well as articulate what the organization can and cannot help them with.
“The language barrier was definitely a challenge,” Patt said. “But I also kind of liked the challenge. It would end up with me sitting on this Syrian grandmother’s floor, going down her grocery list and seeing what was what.”
Patt’s work with Opening Doors Inc. has also translated into an internship this semester back in Portland. Patt is now interning with Pathways to Wellness, an organization in Portland that is working to make mental health questionnaires a part of health screenings for refugees and immigrants.
“There’s like no attention paid to mental health, even though there’s a super extensive health screening,” Patt said. “And these people have been through a lot of stuff.”
At Pathways to Wellness, Patt will be helping to facilitate a support group. While she’s not yet sure whether or not refugee resettlement is somethings she is interested in pursuing as a career, Patt plans to continue to keep working with refugees for the time being.
“It’s a real issue that’s in our community. It’s not just like what you hear on the news, and the faceless millions of people overseas,” Patt said. “You can do things here.”
And in regards to the intense political climate that has grown up around refugees this election season, Patt has a unique understanding.
“People are just profiling them in the image of what they’re running away from,” Patt said. “And I don’t think anyone stops to think about that.”