When I decided to apply to DukeEngage last semester, I expected that I would dramatically change lives. I thought I would play an active role in the legal process, and would help a few people gain permanent residency in the United States. I quickly realized that this belief was wrong. Rather than working with clients, I found myself doing lots of busy work for the lawyers at Catholic Charities Legal Services. So far, most of my tasks have been scanning old case files, writing thank you letters to donors, and researching country conditions. Initially, I was frustrated with my role. Even though I didn’t have any formal education in law, I felt I was capable of doing more than just secretarial office work.
Ever since we arrived in Miami, our site coordinator has been telling us that no task is too small, that every role is important. He argued that while we might not be making an impact directly, we were freeing time for better-qualified attorneys who would be able to accomplish our goals. I understood the message and thought it made sense, but I was still unsatisfied with my assignments. I knew I was freeing others’ time, but I still didn’t feel like I was making a difference. That was until my supervisor gave me an update on one of my earlier tasks.
During my first week, I was told to find free counseling services for a domestic violence victim in another state. When it was assigned, it felt like I was just given something to keep me busy; earlier this week, however, my supervisor let me know that the person I was researching for was able to get in contact with one of the organizations I found, and that she would soon begin treatment. At the time, I felt like this was too trivial. Now, I realize that it allowed me to achieve my goal of changing at least one life. This showed me that even small tasks can make a drastic improvement in one’s life, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. This showed me that there truly is no task too small.