My name is Allie Nichols and I am a freshman planning to major in public health. Through my Intro to Public Health class, I have been volunteering at the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project, commonly referred to as “NIWAP” by those who work there. This site works to assist lawyers in defense of abused immigrant victims. As a volunteer with little background in law and no experience in advocacy, all of my opportunities have remained in an office setting. Throughout my experience here, I have completed a number of jobs, which mostly include the formatting of the organization’s new website. In order to create an easier system for both immigrant women and their lawyers, NIWAP has altered their website and provides easy access to legal documents online. It has been my job to help convert website material as well as organize data in the office.
When I began at NIWAP, I did not know what to expect. I have been interested in both immigrants’ and women’s rights for a while now, so I knew I would enjoy the topics addressed, but I had no idea what the word “advocacy” actually meant. Though there are often fulfilling payoffs with working in advocacy, it is often a job with little action and a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work. There was no way for me to participate many of the organization’s fields, however, I still find gratification in knowing that my small contributions are leading to a bigger cause. Though I do not participate in very thrilling work, I feel satisfaction in the fact that I am helping people in many different aspects. Not only am I assisting the workers at NIWAP, I have also helped to make the website easier to use for lawyers and domestic abuse survivors. Because I did not enter the job with much expectation, I have not been disappointed – it is easy for me to find contentment in the little things.
So far, there have not been many surprises in the work that I’ve been doing. Overall, my favorite aspect of working at NIWAP has been my attainment of knowledge. In locating links for the new website, I have encountered documents that have changed my outlook on life. I did not realize how little I knew about human trafficking (specifically that it still happens in the US), as well as the rights of immigrants and their children. I have gained understanding not only about states but about past lawmakers and new policies. This experience continues to relate to my public health class, as violence is seen as a health concern in the US. Furthermore, policies set in the United States affect the health of not only its citizens but also its temporary members. Though there are not specific laws about the health of abuse survivors, there are many policies set in place to protect the women who need help. Furthermore, there has been a recent increase in mental health concern within the US. This directly relates to the goals of NIWAP, which is an organization that aims to reduce factors such as stress, depression, PTSD, and other mental disorders in women who have experienced trauma in this country.