Mentzie Abdul-Rahman has always known that she wanted to practice social work. Both of her parents were community activists in Charlotte, and her father was an Imam who started the first Islamic Center there. When she was nine years old, her father organized an interfaith rally in Charlotte to advocate for human rights and social justice during the Bosnian Genocide. Mentzie marched alongside her father with 8,000 other people holding a banner that said, “Stop the Genocide!”
“I didn’t even know what that meant…At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know that I was preparing for this moment now.” She has three young children of her own now and hopes she also is sowing in them seeds for peace and justice.
This year, Mentzie chose to do her internship with Church World Service Greensboro. Mentzie’s time in the Social Work program at North Carolina A&T State University had focused her interests on refugee and immigrant populations. In particular, her professor Dr. Maura Nsonwu, whose research focuses on immigrant and refugee populations, has been a key role model. “I just love the resettlement process and wanted to learn a little bit more about it and strengthen my knowledge.”
So far, her favorite experience has been airport pick-ups. About two months ago, she greeted a newly-arrived refugee family for the first time at the airport. The experience blew her away. “For you to be the welcoming face for our agency, and for Greensboro, and for America…It really was eye-opening.”
Primarily, however, Mentzie helps facilitate job class with four other social work interns every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These classes help prepare Match Grant participants for the US workforce. They prepare resumes, talk about US work culture, visit job sites, and conduct mock interviews.
CWS increasingly has tried to provide refugees with experiential learning to help them transition to life and work in Greensboro. With that approach in mind, Mentzie helped lead and organize a field-trip to North Carolina A&T State University with 22 newly-arrived refugees. Beforehand, all five CWS interns had helped the newcomers prepare resumes. Then students in Dr. Kimberly Harper’s class provided mock job interviews.
Mentzie hoped that the exchange would breakdown assumptions on all sides. It did. “I led a Q&A afterwards. One student was surprised to discover that one of the refugees was a doctor back home. He just finished his PhD before having to evacuate where he was.” Mentzie also overheard refugees, most of whom were Congolese, surprised to see so many Black students at the university. “As we know, North Carolina A&T is a Historically Black College and University…It was awesome to hear them shift their perspective and change the narrative.”
At the end of the trip, Mentzie was excited to overhear refugees making plans for their future. “I heard them saying, ‘I want to go here.’”
This story is the first in a series that CWS will be sharing with the community leading up to Giving Tuesday (Nov. 27). Church World Service Greensboro is grateful to volunteers like Mentzie who bring their own experiences and passion to the mission of welcoming refugees to Greensboro, and we are grateful to all our supporters who through their time, prayers, and money make these eye-opening and transformative opportunities possible.
(You can check out a write-up in the Greensboro News & Record about Mentzie and other CWS interns!)