On Monday, July 1…
I have been working a lot with Valencia Acoge, the refugee organization with which I am in contact. I have gotten to know the refugee women I am working with well, and slowly more and more people are being added to our group. I have also loved being able to get to know the workers and their stories in this field.
Originally, I think I was harboring some feelings of guilt. Essentially, what the organization asked me to do is to hang out with the girls and accompany them on a lot of different activities and excursions, and I usually just act as a liaison between them and the organization so that the organization can keep track of the expenses. It was explained to me as a way to empower the women and get them out into the city. However, at first I was struggling to see my benefit to them, seeing as a few of them have lived here much longer than me, and some are also native Spanish speakers. I did not really understand what I had to offer them. However, I think I am slowly learning that all forms of accompaniment can be useful, especially with the girls who are newer arrivals.
It is a different image than what you often see in the photos when you Google “refugees in Spain”. About half of the women are from Europe, and you cannot tell them apart from the next Spanish person. I think this gives them a very different experience than the refugees I worked within the United States, who more easily stood out. These girls are also similar ages to me and into similar activities. However, it has caused me to reflect a lot on the fact that there is no singular definition of a refugee, and just because a refugee was not pulled off of a boat from the Mediterranean does not mean that they have not endured struggles of their own. It has also been good to see how empowered these women are and disprove any notion that refugees are helpless in any way.
I am enjoying speaking Spanish with all the refugees too. It is our second language for a lot of us, so we are also learning together. However, I am definitely glad that I will be here for eight weeks because the language barrier adds a few obstacles in terms of getting to know their stories. However, I feel comfortable enough with them now to dig deeper.
Last Friday was the 30-year anniversary of the organization I am working with, and the organization held a dinner for all the refugees, workers, and friends. It was inspiring to see how many people are working for the cause and how many people have been helped. I am excited to continue to get to know everyone, and now that I have been introduced to many more workers who have been working for a while, I am excited about their interviews, because I believe they can offer me more insight on the political situation.
Rachel Ingal is also an International Development Studies minor.