One of the hard parts about working with a nonprofit or NGO:
It can be difficult because AAT only has so much capacity, therefore must explicitly define the scope of services provided. For example, when it comes to LTLS, AAT cannot find sponsors for clients, review emails to sponsors, and review or fill out application forms or translate documents. However, AAT is able to answer questions clients have about the process or application forms and give them advice on how to prepare for an interview for visa application.
Everyone at AAT is so passionate about the work, but in order to function most effectively, AAT has to screen and assist clients with the types of legal issues that are in our priorities. For instance, when talking to a client to see if we can help them with a reopening matter, we must first see if they meet the qualifications defined by the UNHCR for reopening. If the situation does not meet the requirements, then AAT would be unable to assist. This is hard because the client is still facing difficulties in their lives here in Bangkok or in their home countries, but AAT wouldn’t be able to provide the service requested. I faced this same issue when I was previously working with a nonprofit law firm in Nashville. Even though you want to help, it is not always possible to help each client with the exact service they are asking for. However, I’m sure clients feel at such a loss and so distressed when they are reaching out for help, but being told they cannot receive it. In this way, I try to emphasize to clients the reasoning why we are sometimes unable to proceed with their cases.
Also, there is so much bureaucracy involved with this type of work. The RSD or LTLS processes are lengthy and complicated. The systems in place are often not the most effective. Additionally, NGOs and nonprofits are notoriously underfunded. They are not able to run as smoothly as many large corporations because they lack the resources and manpower to do so. My colleague who recently returned to the US (miss you!) stated that she sees the refugee crisis as a symptom of a larger issue, and I couldn’t agree more.
My first on-call day(s):
Tuesdays at AAT are known as on-call days, during which we have scheduled appointments to speak to clients about issues such as reopening, following up with the UNHCR, etc. I’ve started handling all the calls myself on some of these days, and those are always long days. It’s a lot to fit into one day because preparation (including reading the clients’ file history) and follow-up can take around 30 minutes, while the actual call itself typically takes 30 minutes or sometimes even longer.
I’ve gotten much more comfortable with client calls and working with an interpreter. My supervisors have been great and always answer any questions I have that come up during client calls. When working with an interpreter, I have to keep reminding myself to speak in short sentences and not to use colloquialisms. Instead, it’s best to keep sentences short and simple.
Although the RSD team is hoping to accept more VLAs, we are currently quite backlogged and working with limited capacity. We have a goal to get rid of the backlog and conduct a certain number of screenings within the next month, therefore I am working my way up to being able to handle client screenings. These are lengthy and can take hours at a time.
Some snapshots and moments from the past couple weeks:
Recent highlight – my first time going to the beach in Thailand!
During an office wellness day, I went to Koh Larn with a few coworkers. This is an island off the coast of Pattaya. We woke up really early and caught the 6:30am bus so we could make the most of our day. The bus took around 2.5 hours, then we took a tuk-tuk to the ferry. From there, the boat ride to the island lasted around 30 minutes or so. The island was so breathtaking and beautiful, and it’s surrounded by mountains. We really didn’t waste a second of the day. We rented Thai motorbikes, with three colleagues driving and three riding on the back of the bikes. We drove all around the island and saw amazing views. We also booked a banana boat, but the driver didn’t manage to flip us over. To end the day, we went to a coffee shop overlooking the water. It was such a great day, and I can’t wait to explore more Thai islands!