My name is Danielle Korzhenyak and I am a Freshman at American University majoring in Foreign Language and Media Communications. My foreign language is Spanish and this is the class I am connecting my credit to. I am volunteering for CAIR Coalition, a detainee hotline service that specializes in providing care for immigrant detainees located in the surrounding DC area.
At CAIR Coalition, I am in charge of various tasks that all go hand in hand together. Primarily, I am in charge of answering the detainee hotline. Most likely, the phone will be ringing constantly. Therefore, as soon as I have concluded with one phone call, another one rings right afterwards. Depending on what the caller might need, I might have to connect them to their lawyer, direct them to an official higher up than me, or help them with a phone intake. A phone intake is the starting process of attaining a lawyer for the detainees and they can ask help for that over the phone. Despite me being a volunteer for the few hours I volunteer for, this job is pretty chaotic at times and, if not careful, you might put these people in danger or in a horrible position if you do not proceed doing all of the steps in the correct manner.
Before my first shift at CAIR Coalition, a lot of my expectations formed in my head were based off of what I may have seen on TV, such as large offices holding dozens of cubicles for callers patiently awaiting for the next phone line to ring. What I found was a single desk office in a relatively small office space for me to sit in while taking the calls. Not quite the same, yet convenient enough for me to run back and forth between answering phone calls and asking question after question too my director. Quite possibly, she might have gotten a tad annoyed with me, but I think my effort towards efficiently performing my work was accounted for. I have dropped all of the possible stereotypes created by television and movies from my mind. No more grungy and rude detainees in my mind whereas in real life, they are genuinely kind and actually help me perform my job better than I can. They have called so many times that they know the routine. Therefore, they can sense when a newbie, such as myself, is in a bit of a struggle and were more than willing to lend me a hand. I think this was the biggest hope I had for my volunteer position. Strangers, ones I have never met before and are in the hardest of positions
you can imagine, are more than willing to be of service to someone they should not even have to think twice about.
Generally, the people I work with are pretty helpful. They have mountains of work to get through, yet they still find time to answer my questions, no matter how unnecessary they might be. But, again, the detainees and their charismatic personalities are the ones who have surprised me the most by far.
The biggest connection I witness to my Spanish class is being able to practice speaking Spanish almost the entire time I am at the hotline. Most of the detainees calling are Spanish speaking and that gives me such a wonderful opportunity to perfect my Spanish speaking skills.