Monday, March 8, 2010

TPS and Community Outreach: A Crash Course

Today begins our weeklong adventure into the world of TPS clinics.

Information overload!

We met this morning at 8:15 in the lobby of our hotel, and headed over to the beautiful University of Miami campus. The law school is situated in a corner of campus and the common area is known as “The Bricks”. It's lovely – lots of trees and plants, and full of students studying and socializing.

Training began at 9am with the supervising attorneys and student mentors who have gone through this process a number of times already. Training consisted of an extensive overview of what TPS (Temporary Protected Status) means, who is currently eligible for it, and how we help Haitian nationals understand what the status means for them. We also went over the forms that we will be helping the applicants fill out, and learned about all the possible ways that what seems like a straightforward question can present a whole host of complicated answers. To wrap up the morning training sessions, the trainers did a skit of an interview that gave us an idea of questions that applicants might ask, and creative solutions we can use to help them overcome apprehension.

After the training wrapped up, our team headed to Little Haiti where we ate lunch at a Haitian restaurant – fried chicken, goat, pork, and spinach plates. Even the vegetarians in our group found delicious food to nosh on!

Our team split up into separate groups this afternoon and headed out to neighborhoods around the city where we distributed flyers at local schools and organizations, letting people know about the upcoming free clinics. Overall, the response from the community was extremely positive – people were glad to learn about the opportunities for Haitian nationals and their families. One of the high schools we stopped at even let us make a presentation to a class of students!

Tomorrow we begin our intake at the local community hospital. Though there is no doubt some apprehension about what our first experience helping this client group will be like, we are all excited to take everything we learned today and put it into action!

Ed. note - Anna Rudman-Santos is a first year law student at the University of Memphis.

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