Blog #1: A Summer in Detroit

This summer, I am participating in Semester in Detroit which involves taking classes
with my cohort and participating in an internship with a Detroit-based organization. I’ve been
told that summer is the best time of the year to be in Detroit, and I certainly have to agree. We
are never bored between Pride Festival, free movies at New Center Park, bike rides to the
Heidelberg Project, and so much more going on in Detroit.
I’ve been interning with Freedom House which provides temporary housing and legal
services for those seeking asylum in the U.S. and Canada. Before coming to Freedom House, one
of our assignments in class was to look up the mission statement for our organization and reflect
on what it means to us. Here is what Freedom House views their mission to be:
“Our mission is to uphold a fundamental American principle, one inscribed on the base of
the Statue of Liberty, of providing safety for those ‘yearning to breathe free.’”
This is one of the more poetic mission statements I have ever encountered and I feel that
it embodies the spirit of Freedom House. The residents at the house act as a family for one
another. They volunteer to watch each other’s children, cook for one another, and motivate each
other by walking to the gym together. At Freedom House, everyone is invested in the safety and
wellbeing of those around them.
This safeguarding that occurs between the residents is essential because those who come
to Freedom House are fleeing persecution and violence back home. Because of this, everyone
who comes through our doors has experienced trauma and has to start from scratch here in the
States. Some started their own businesses back home, or were still going to school, but had to
leave it all behind in order to find safety here.
The organization was originally founded to assist the growing population of refugees in
the area fleeing violence in El Salvador. Today, a majority of residents are from various parts of
Africa. As a result, many different cultures are represented and multiple languages are spoken.
There is a number of French-speaking residents which has allowed me to use my (weak and
broken) French to communicate with some residents. Overall, the house is vibrant and there is
never a dull moment.

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