What’s the one special day that is unique to you? When it seems the whole world pauses to celebrate you, or at least that’s how it seems when you’re showered with gifts, hugs, extra big smiles, your phone is blowing up with well-wishes, and your Facebook wall is at its fullest capacity- it’s your birthday! But what if you didn’t know when your birthday was and how old you were?
For the many Haitian orphans Courtney Perron met during her time in their country, this was the case. Courtney took multiple trips to Haiti with her mom and grandmother providing dental services, but the work she most remembers is throwing birthday parties for the orphans to give them that one special, unique day just for them! Courtney caught the travel bug at an early age and her adventures landed her in places such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and West Africa.
When it was time to consider college she included the people she had met and the experiences she had overseas into her decision making, which landed her at UNH Durham where she will graduate this May with her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work supported by a French minor. A common trend one can see throughout Courtney’s life is spending her time for the benefit of others. She volunteered with many local organizations during college, including Lutheran Social Services (LSS) (now Ascentria Care Alliance). She felt a connection to refugee resettlement and thought this would be the closest way to work internationally while she could not be overseas. She chose to research the growing trend of refugees displaced by global warming for her International Affairs class and was again struck by the need for persons to feel they belong and have a space they can call home.
She requested her senior internship to be with LSS as the foundation to one day work with refugees abroad. Her internship supervisors, both refugees at one point themselves; have given her a clear picture of the various dynamics that come with refugee resettlement and first hand insight. On a weekly basis she brings refugees to various appointments, applies for social security and DHHS services, writes case notes, manages special projects, and sets up apartments for refugees yet to arrive.
One of her favorite experiences was going to a new family’s home the day after they arrived to welcome them, have breakfast together, and go to the social security office to begin the application process. When Courtney arrived at the home, the mother was smiling and wearing the clothes Courtney had picked out for her and hung in the closet the day before. On the way to DHHS Courtney played music and conversed with them in French. Courtney concluded, “These moments of empathy that go beyond the casework - it’s the simple things of making them smile because they know they have found a place to call home is why I have chosen this field.”
So was the internship worth it?
“Yes! The staff is really fun, welcoming, helpful, and beautiful because they are so happy all the time! Working with SNA has given me an invaluable world view that has shown me how I can incorporate my love of cultures with my desire to make social change and create an incredibly rewarding career.”
We are so proud of you, Courtney, and wish you all the best in your future endeavors. You always have a home at LSS!