Law student volunteers share her story in FCJ

By Danielle Dekeyser

©FCJ Refugee Center/2018

Toronto, Canada, February, 2018 — My name is Danielle Dekeyser and I have been a volunteer at the FCJ Refugee Centre since September 2017. I am a law student at Osgoode and was placed at the organization by Pro Bono Students Canada. I chose to volunteer at the FCJ Refugee Centre because I was very interested in exploring refugee law and interacting with clients, and I wanted the opportunity to help others in some small way. I began my placement after hearing all summer about the refugee crisis in the Middle East, and wanted to contribute positively in some way.

Furthermore, the organization looked like an incredibly grass-roots, compassionate place where I could really get some hands-on experience. I have been at the Centre for over 4 months now and can confidently say I found even more than I imagined. In my role, I draft humanitarian and compassionate applications for refugee claimants seeking an exemption to apply for permanent residence from within Canada.

Through my work I have been exposed to a number of vastly different cases and diverse groups of people. I have gotten the opportunity to meet clients in person and hear their stories, which is a very humbling experience.

The one lesson I have taken out of this experience is that everyone’s situation is different, and there are so many incredible stories. The challenge is having a balance between compassion and making a strong case for your client. While you can’t get caught up with the circumstances of their situation, at the same time, hearing someone’s story in person really helps you understand their circumstances better and often you are ultimately able to make a stronger case.

©FCJ Refugee Center/2018

Through the entire experience, I have had the support of Jack and Diana the entire way through, who encouraged me and all the volunteers to be confident in our submissions, ask for help when needed, and seek them out if we were ever interested in learning more about refugee law. This experience has been an excellent introduction to refugee law, and a great place to start my legal career. If you are ever thinking about gaining exposure to the practice of refugee law, I would highly recommend the Centre — the people are excellent, you are given a lot of autonomy, and the Centre in general is an excellent support system for refugees.

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FCJ Refugee Centre strives to meet the diverse needs of uprooted people in communities across Ontario. FCJ Refugee Centre attempts to address the problems of poverty and lack of resources, isolation, and discrimination through community-based programs, which promote self-help, personal growth, community economic development and social justice.

If you are interested in volunteering at FCJ Refugee Centre you are invited to submit your resume and your volunteer application with your information to Carolina Teves: