Since Rozina Zeidan first joined the CIANA family in early 2019, she has interned and volunteered in our Civics, Communications, Elementary Tutoring, and Case Management programs. Her extensive experience working with CIANA's immigrant clients in so many ways has had a tremendous impact on her personal and professional development, which she elaborates on here.
How long have you been volunteering/interning at CIANA and why did you decide to get involved here?
I’ve been volunteering with CIANA since February 2019. I found out about CIANA through a Facebook post of someone asking for organizations they can get involved with that serve immigrants. Someone commented on that post to look into CIANA.
I had worked with immigrants for almost 2 years the year prior to my time at CIANA, at another non-profit in Brooklyn and enjoyed my experience. When I looked into CIANA, I saw that you guys are based in Queens, so I figured it'd be great to help a different community. Additionally, CIANA's mission in equipping immigrants with the tools they can use to better their lives in the U.S. stood out to me and I knew I wanted to be a part of that process, so I sent in an application to volunteer with CIANA!
How did your initial experience at CIANA match up with your expectations?
At the previous non-profit I volunteered at, I tutored civics to prepare immigrants for their naturalization interview and thought I could get the chance to do the same at CIANA. However, due to a scheduling conflict, I wasn’t able to do so, but I still wanted to get involved with CIANA. The former Director of Communications and Development said she needed assistance with media and communications work and asked if I’d be interested to get on board with that. I said yes because it was something new and I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about advocacy from a digital perspective.
I didn’t have any sort of expectation when it came to organizing work online since it was new for me, but it was a refreshing experience in that I learned A WHOLE LOT about many things, from the logistics in creating eye-catching content and tweets to writing articles in a specific way (short, sweet, to the point), to learning how to reach out to various media figures to advertise our fundraisers, events, and campaigns.
It was awesome to do behind-the-scenes work for CIANA this past year, but I missed working directly with folks and wanted to get back into that. I recently transitioned to casework and tutoring in February and have since loved my experience. I have always loved being able to work hands-on with people, so working in case management and tutoring has just reinforced my passion for helping others, while also getting to learn about new field areas.
What kinds of previous experience do you have in working with immigrants?
As mentioned before, I was involved with another non-profit for a good two years. There, I was an advocacy intern for 6 months, where I learned the ropes of organizing, advocacy, and campaigning for Arab and Muslim immigrants in NYC. Following that, I tutored civics for about a year and a half teaching folks American history and helping them pass their citizenship interview. While tutoring, I learned a lot about the citizenship process and was offered a position to be an Immigration Navigator, so I got to work with the non-profit’s attorney in actually helping immigrants apply for citizenship and other immigration benefits.
How has working remotely due to COVID-19 impacted the work you’ve done for us?
I continue to volunteer remotely. I devote time to online tutoring for our elementary students and casework 2x a week. I love the community I get to work with and I want to be able to stand by our clients every step of the way during these trying times; they need to know that we are still here for them and will do our best to help them and that they don’t have to go through this crazy time alone. Plus, it gives me a chance to interact with humanity when I’m home alone most of the week!
How, if at all, does volunteering at CIANA tie into your long-term career goals?
When I volunteered at the previous non-profit, I surprisingly found my calling to pursue medicine through a series of events. Serving and healing people, especially marginalized communities, is something I want to devote myself to, and volunteering at CIANA has reinforced my passion for service. Being able to work with the people we serve at CIANA has helped me understand better how socioeconomic factors impact one’s health and livelihood. These clients could be my future patients, and it's important for me as an aspiring physician to see first-hand how these factors need to be taken into consideration when it comes to treatment and preventative medicine.
What do you find most meaningful about volunteering at CIANA?
The clients and staff. I love how diverse the community is that we serve, along with the staff. I am inspired by the folks we help and the people I work with every time I come into CIANA. Even though CIANA is a small CBO, its impact on the community is huge and that’s probably the most amazing thing about this non-profit. Everyone is filled with a love for the community and truly wants the best outcome for every client we assist. The positivity that this place radiates is the reason why I’ve been sticking around for as long as I have.
What kind of a difference do you hope to make in the lives of our clients?
Since joining the case management and tutoring, and especially since the start of the pandemic, I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to make something easier for my clients, whether it be checking on the status of a case, arranging a grocery drop off, helping their children with homework, or even if it's simply lending an ear for a client to vent. I hope I can provide even just a little bit of relief for our clients through this all.
Is there a particular incident/story/experience that stands out as meaningful during your experience as a volunteer at CIANA?
I’ve had a lot of memorable experiences here at CIANA, but honestly, COVID-19 takes the cake. The fact that this nonprofit is still hustling and bustling through all of this is something I won’t forget. I’ve said it time and time before, but I truly appreciate and am always amazed by how devoted our staff is. Go CIANA!