My name is Michal Petros and I am a second year student at American University. My major is International Relations, with a focus in Comparative/Global Governance and Identity, Race, Gender and Culture in sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently working with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and connecting my work to my gateway course for Comparative and Global Governance. Lutheran Social Services is an organization that works to aid and resettle refugees at their various locations within the United States. This semester, my work has been with the office in Hyattsville, Maryland.
As a volunteer at my service site, I have done manual labor tasks such as organizing the office space and more administrative tasks such as entering refugee individuals or families’ information on LSS’ database. In entering the information of refugees, I have gained knowledge in the procedures that refugees go through once they have entered the USA – an example being how they decide if an individual will be given financial assistance from the government.
When starting at LSS, I expected to be given minor administrative tasks throughout the day, such as filing and shredding papers. Although my volunteering began with a morning of organizing shelves, I was quickly given a responsibility that was essential to the functioning of the office. My supervisor showed me how to use their online system, in which I updated how much money that individuals or families received from LSS. Along with entering financial data, I was given a pile of files that belonged to different families, and my task was to organize them to be put into their respective hard copy files. As I filed papers that I had entered the information of or had organized, I was told by the regional manager that its important that I ask if I am not sure where a specific paper goes as its imperative that all newly entered information is easily accessible. I was surprised that I was trusted with this task on my first day, but I am grateful as I’m learning how to use a new database while gaining knowledge first hand on how LSS works to promote self sufficiency in refugees.
Connecting this to my course, I am directly observing a level of domestic governance. LSS is a self-governing institution with a public goods provision. As their website concisely states,
“On the path to regain independence, families receive intensive case management, cultural orientation from our trained staff of professionals, and other services to gain self-sufficiency. We direct newcomers to appropriate community resources while helping them to become active members of their new communities.”
In addition to providing public goods and services, LSS works off a simple narrative as my professor, Michael Schroeder, has discussed in class. They consistently reiterate through their mission statement, vision and social media that they are looking to help vulnerable populations, which is a fundamental aspect to their Lutheran faith. It has been an amazing opportunity for me to combine volunteering for a cause I care about deeply and my primary academic focus within International Relations. I’m excited to see what more I am able to learn as the semester comes to a close.