“Three weeks after graduation, I reported for work with the Resettlement Support Center Africa in Nairobi. This NGO's primary mission is processing resettlement cases for the US Worldwide Refugee Admissions Program in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Refugees have been my focus and my passion. Indeed, assisting them has become my profession. My position with RSC Africa required traveling across sub-Saharan Africa to liaise with forced migration officials in the field and to work directly with displaced individuals, in particular Congolese and Somali refugee populations. A key responsibility was interviewing individuals in camps and UNHCR compounds to prepare their case files for resettlement determination. This position offered an exceptional vantage point to understand the logistics and problems of refugees on the entire continent and to deal with the challenges inherent in the refugee resettlement process. My two years in Kenya were followed by two years in Rwanda. First, as a resettlement consultant for UNHCR at their field office in Kibuye where I helped process Congolese refugees and became head of the Resettlement Unit; now, as a resettlement expert at the UNHCR Branch Office in Kigali.
The Patterson School refined my previous work experiences and gave me a solid understanding of international development and humanitarian work. It offered a great balance of practical application and academic training. I had the flexibility to take courses in other disciplines (anthropology, agricultural economics) and to construct a program (including a minor in refugee studies) perfectly suited to my career goals. Before Patterson, I worked under VISTA with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. I maintained this tie throughout my masters program, putting my academic knowledge to practical use helping refugees. I was also able to put my practical work to academic use, conducting a research project among the Iraqi, Bhutanese, and DR Congolese populations in Lexington.
These are the first steps in what I hope will be a life career in refugee work. I gained invaluable knowledge of forced migration issues as a caseworker and field team leader for RSC Africa and further expanded my knowledge base in my work with UNHCR.
What's most important, however, is not the career experience; it is being able to help people in need. That is what makes me so excited about the Patterson School, my job, and my future.”