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After leaving the Teach for America program early, I knew that I needed to find something to do during the year it takes to apply to medical school, and I knew that I needed it to feed my soul. I knew that I needed something that was rooted in improving the human condition and simply loving people, which is how I ended up in a service program like Amate House. 

I work at the Marjorie Kovler Center for Survivors of Torture; all of our participants are seeking asylum after experiencing traumatic violence at the hands of the government in their native country. In the past few weeks however, I’ve come to dislike telling people what I do; “I’m a case manager for politically sanctioned torture survivors so I coordinate psychiatry appointments, help people apply for medical insurance, do accompaniments to hospitals or clinics when needed, and am responsible for our food pantry.” It’s so jarring I think that few people hardly ever hear anything other than who the clients are. They become fixated on the trauma the survivors must carry, and what I bear witness to at work. 

What I am telling you now though, is what I want to become better at sharing with people and it is this: every person I interact with, regardless of where they are in their journey, is simply a normal person fighting to heal. They’re just people. They want to lead normal lives and be safe and healthy, just like myself and just like you reading this letter right now. I had thought that I would have difficulty with the stories I hear and the struggles that the clients still have. I do, but nearly every day I see something ordinary and beautiful as lives are rebuilt and it reminds that above all, I’m working with people, not just survivors of the unimaginable. 

As medical interview season starts, and years of dreams and hard work to become a doctor finally seem to be realized, I am learning that this year and this experience is something I needed. The clients I interact with everyday are preparing me, in a way I would have never in a million years expected, to treat my patients first and foremost as people. I had already known I wanted to do that, but now I know how to do it, and for that I am grateful to not only Amate House, but also the beautiful souls that I have met through my service.