Romero House is a unique experience. I personally loved my time there and I think you would be hard pressed to find another internship like it. You will be working on the front lines of refugee settlement work in Canada and will learn so much about yourself, Canada’s refugee system, and about how to provide support to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. While I came to Romero without any experience in settlement work or technical knowledge of Canada’s immigration system, I found Romero provided an excellent environment to learn and challenge myself to do things I never thought I was capable of. When I came to Romero in Sept. 2013 I was a pretty shy and quiet person. I was also slightly intimidated by the amount of responsibility and trust Jenn, Mary Jo, and my companions placed in me. But regardless of my own trepidation I was still thrown into into the deep end, being asked to connect families with legal aid and legal counsel, or to connect them to particular health care services, or to help them find short term emergency housing. With enough experience I became more confident to the point where I decided to stay a second year. But what I remember even more fondly than the case work are the relationships I built with my companions. It is a real privilege to be welcomed into a family, to be invited to accompany them as they move through an extremely disorienting and somewhat unsympathetic system. While I also remember how exhausting some days can be, I will never forgot the people I met, many of whom I am still connected with today. Romero House’s greatest asset is the community it builds and serves and I hope you will take advantage of the chance to be a part of it. Whether that means becoming an intern, volunteer, or just coming to the street party in June.
I was challenged to be patient, specifically to learn how to wait with people when there was no apparent “light at the end of the tunnel.” We live in a society that prizes quick results and immediate gratification, but some of the refugees I accompanied still have not received their result, over five years after their processes began. I often became frustrated when our efforts to “make things work” seemed to amount to nothing, but our way of working and living at Romero House eventually allowed me to understand that justice comes slowly, with persistence and patience. That has given me an important perspective that helps guide me in my current vocation today, in an institution where change occurs very slowly and in work that often seems hopeless in the face of some of the greatest challenges known to humanity.
My name is Esther Gibbs and I now work as the Communications Advisor to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. While this is a great position, the best job I ever had was working for Romero House. I was an intern for 2 years from 2007 – 2009. Romero House is a refuge for the people it serves but it is also a haven for the interns as well. At Romero House, I lived the way I had always wanted to live – in community with and for each other. Romero House continues to be my community and the interns that I worked with are still my best friends, eight years later. I am still in contact with the refugee families that I lived with and we continue to support each other. Working at Romero House is a big sacrifice (it takes a lot of time and energy) but it is also incredibly rewarding and immensely gratifying. It’s also a lot of fun as you will party almost every week! I am very happy that I am back in the neighbourhood of Romero House after moving away in 2009. I got married this past summer to the man of my dreams and we moved a few blocks away from Romero House. Prior to getting married, becoming an intern was the best decision I had ever made.