Like most people, I can’t believe it’s time for another new year to begin, and the guilt-ridden, annual ritual of confronting last year’s resolutions that failed to materialize. Although a few of my resolutions never came to fruition, I did follow through on one commitment–to engage in more volunteer work assisting communities in need.
I’ve always been passionate about using my skills and knowledge to benefit those born into less fortunate circumstances and political climates than myself, and it’s what led me to become a lawyer in the first place.
Previously, in New York, I worked for an agency that connected clients with free legal representation through volunteers. Later, after leaving that position, I continued to volunteer when I could. It was a great way to help others; build legal and soft skills; connect/network in the community; and also just to make myself feel good. Volunteering has always helped me appreciate the things I have and to recognize our ability to have an impact on another person’s life, hopefully lessening their struggle.
This year, I sought out a humanitarian agency here in Dallas that assists individuals with their asylum claims. Despite the last few years in the U.S. being especially rough through Covid, politics, and violence, there are still those who dream of being U.S. citizens, pursuing our vast opportunities and escaping persecution in their home country.
The organization connected me with a Western African client persecuted for his public support of a governmentally abused minority group. He also formed an organization to protect the rights of this group. As a result, he was imprisoned twice by authorities. While jailed, he was severely beaten and physically tortured. He suffered brain and head injuries, having to undergo multiple surgeries to try and correct the damage and reduce his pain.
My client does not identify as a member of the group, but believes they should have equal rights and access. He sacrificed his own safety, health, and future in order to help others in their battle for equality. I may be unable to alleviate my client’s pain, but I can surely step out of my own comfort zone and my routine legal practice of representing clients in commercial transactions to help my client remain in the safety of our country.
The case is just getting started, and the immigration court backlog is considerable, but I’m happy I can bring a bit of hope to my client during this holiday season. Hope that his case is moving forward toward resolution, and that he could be closer to resting easy, knowing he won’t be sent back to the country that persecuted him. This volunteer work gives me hope too, that change is possible and there is a brighter future to come.
As we approach another new year, and our resolutions, I encourage everyone to get involved in something charitable. Your work doesn’t have to be highly sophisticated or even long term(we’re all busy trying to keep up with our own difficulties), but just something that helps others. Our small actions can change another’s experience and help us to recognize our own power.