Making Real Impact through Skills-Based Volunteering

Earlier this month, MPS employees Zully Barrientos, Paul Dolmon, Mariana Enriquez, Mary Flannery, Isaac Garon, Mara Goldberg, and Allison Primack volunteered at a local law firm for KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), a nonprofit that partners with attorneys and law firms to provide pro bono representation to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children. We were there to conduct intake interviews with Central American children for their lawyers. KIND provided a brief training to familiarize us with the interview process, best practices in communicating with the children, and legal terminology that otherwise would have gone over our heads.

KIND paired up groups of two volunteers with one child and his or her caretaker, and we spent the morning interviewing them (in Spanish) about the child’s life in their home country, their journey to the U.S., and their current living situation. These children have experienced trauma and hardship, so it was important to gain their trust and make sure they felt understood. To this end, we engaged them in conversation about their interests and tried to lighten the mood when topics got too heavy. The final step was to write up a detailed memo, providing recommendations to the lawyers on how to move forward with the case.

Without volunteers to help out, the backlog of intakes would be overwhelming. Besides being genuinely impactful and important, the work further developed professional skills that we, as MPSers, are passionate about. We were able to use our experience conducting stakeholder interviews with government and pro bono clients. Also, some of us have previously worked on or feel connected to immigration issues in Latin America, so the interviews gave us an opportunity to use this knowledge along with our Spanish language skills. It was clear that we were needed and that we were making meaningful change in a few children’s lives. As author Clarissa Pinkola Estes said, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”