- Santiago Vazquez
ORAM TOP VOLUNTEERS – ISAIAS – ORAM REFUGEE
What attracted you to volunteer for ORAM? Originally, I graduated from the University of San Diego with a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Anthropology. When I moved to Berlin after completing my Master’s degree in Public Health at Bordeaux university, I came across ORAM at the Berlin LGBTIQ+ Pride festival. I found ORAM’s work intriguing since I actually studied migration and wanted to give back to the LGBTIQ immigrant community. After speaking to an ORAM volunteer at the time, he told me that ORAM was looking for someone with administrative skills. I was happy to find the chance to change sectors from working in the medical field to more humanitarian work.
How long did you volunteer with ORAM? I underwent ORAM’s interview process back in November of 2019 and I officially joined the ORAM team as a volunteer at the start of this year back in January 2020. Therefore, I have been with ORAM for about nine months.
What did the basis of your volunteer work consist of? When I originally applied to volunteer with ORAM I was applying as an administration volunteer. However, the ORAM staff were impressed with my Spanish skills listed on my CV and I was asked if I would be comfortable being an interpreter. After accepting the offer, I began working with Bella Stevens, the Communications Coordinator, and I got to work with ongoing asylum cases in Tijuana, specifically, interpreting the voices of asylum seekers into English.
What has been the most rewarding part about volunteering with ORAM? I think that the most rewarding part about volunteering with ORAM is seeing a breakthrough in a case you’re working with. There tends to be a pattern amongst LGBTIQ asylum seekers who have mentally shut-down and struggle to open up about past traumas. The practice asylum interviews ORAM provides are often the first time LGBTIQ asylum seekers are given the chance to tell their stories and it may take a second – or third – call for them to completely open up to you (and you see it in their faces). A majority of LGBTIQ+ refugees don’t often have the chance to tell their stories and this leads to them believing the hardships they faced are normal when in fact they should not be considered normal situations as most come from countries where laws do not support them in being their most authentic selves. However, there are people who care about them and who want them to express themselves! Being an ORAM volunteer humbles you by seeing how happy people can be with the little they have and it makes you want to get involved even more so.