Author Archive

You Can Never Outgrow Your Need For Purpose

August 13th, 2010
posted by at 4:47 pm

As you get older, it sometimes seems that there are fewer things to learn. No more school. You know your job like the back of your hand. You play the same games on the computer.

Well, I recently had an opportunity that taught me much about life outside the United States. And it opened my eyes to the reality that there is SO much I still don’t know.

Murali and I recently returned from a trip to Kenya. Besides the safari – which was absolutely fantastic – we spent some time visiting with people involved in projects we’ve partnered with as part of the non-profit that we built, Friends Unite.

We went to Kibera, outside Nairobi, which is one of the largest slums in the world. There we met with officials from Carolina for Kibera. This UNC Global initiative, is a non-profit organization that has set an exemplary model for how just a few people can create astounding change for those in need.

They showed us some of their youth programs, and then took us to the medical center they started. It has since been taken over somewhat by a larger non-profit, but that is exactly what we’d like to do – start programs that are so successful they become self-sustaining. The building itself is a clean, sturdy, shining beacon in the midst of overwhelming poverty. The people, dedicated professionals with optimism beyond compare.

We also drove out to Kilisa, a small village a few hours east of Nairobi (in the US, it wouldn’t have taken a few hours, but we’ll talk about Kenyan highways some other time!) to meet with the Kilisa Village Development Community (“KVDC”). What they’ve accomplished already, and what they’ve planned for the future, is remarkable. With so few resources, they’ve managed to redirect their path from one of stagnant poverty which would be expected in an area like this. Instead, they are now on one with the potential for education, enterprise, and sustainable growth.

So what did I learn? Sometimes community-based change does not have to take a government, or years of political negotiating. Water can be found and harnessed from underneath a dry riverbed. A school full of children with a desire to learn does not need a playground, projectors, or even many books. And…. we are very lucky to live in a country with natural resources that allow us to concentrate on more than just survival.

Check out the video of our trip to a school in Kilisa, that our colleague Jessica Coscia produced.

Asante sana!

The Ever-Present Immigration “Friend”

May 12th, 2010
posted by at 6:51 pm

 I’ve been in the immigration racket (I mean industry) for over ten years now. I’ve met so many interesting people from all over the world – professionals, refugees, tradesmen, senior citizens, college students, toddlers, Asians, Europeans, South Americans.

Do you want to know who I HAVEN’T met?  This “friend” so many of my clients talk about.

I wish I could meet him or her. I’d like to explain how difficult they’ve made my job! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “Three YEARS?? My ‘friend’ said he got his Green Card in six months”!

I try to explain that maybe this “friend” was in a higher employment preference category, or the State Department’s visa numbers were current at that time. Or maybe they immigrated through family instead of employment – that makes a huge difference. They say the devil is in the details, and when it comes to immigration law it is!

What else have we heard from these invisible friends? They “didn’t have to pay that fee” or “didn’t have to file that form” or “said it’s legal to work on H4” or “don’t think the employer has to advertise for the job”.

I often wonder where their friend got this information. Perhaps this is all a plot by USCIS to torture the staff of immigration law firms. Think about it – approve a case in 10 days that should normally take 10 years. That information spreads like wild-fire in our Internet age and bingo! It eventually gets around to our client who then informs us that 10 day processing is the norm.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but think about it…………… I am all for friends and friendship but when it comes to your immigration case, your best friends are the folks you work with in the immigration law firm that you hired. Trust them.

Just Call Me An Immigration Socialite

March 11th, 2010
posted by at 7:35 pm

We’re a big hit on the social circuit….


You think YOU hate going to parties and other social events?  Maybe  you’re shy, or what your spouse lovingly calls ‘antisocial’.  Maybe you get bored, or just don’t know what to talk about.   Discussions on the weather can only take you so far, so most people resort to talking about their careers at things like this.  But what if you recently lost your job? Or you do some obscure research that no one understands?  Maybe you’re a dermatologist and when you tell strangers they ask you to look at the rash on the bottom of their feet.   When I had young children, and wasn’t employed outside the home, I would dread the question “So what do you do”?  I would panic and stammer something like “Uh. Nothing.”, when that’s the LAST thing that could describe what I did all day.

All that pales in comparison to my experiences these last couple of years.  My husband works for a health insurance company. (Was that a shudder that just went through you?)  Anyway, we’ve started keeping it secret from new acquaintances.  It’s just no fun getting that hateful glare as they digest the fact that he makes a living with the ‘evil empire’ that single-handedly destroyed their friend’s aunt’s life savings, or refused to pay for their sister’s neighbor’s liposuction.  I think people would take it better if he was a used car salesman (apologies to all you used car salesmen). 

Those that try to remain polite in the face of such circumstances will inevitably turn to me to change the topic of conversation.  They try to disguise their contempt as they struggle to maintain their composure and not attack my sweet hubby in public.  “Me”? I say. “Oh, I work in immigration”!  There’s an audible gasp, and then silence. Their face turns white.   And then they let me have it. 

No one has mild feelings on the subject of immigration.  I’ve heard it all. Every misleading idea, every misunderstanding, every out-and-out lie that gets spread as if it’s the gospel truth.  So I have taken this on as my personal life’s mission:  to educate the average American on 1] why our country NEEDS immigrants; 2] why our country should WANT immigrants; and 3] how the US is inestimably richer for our melting-pot culture.  I back them in to a corner (figuratively if not literally) and explain how immigration law is the only federal law that is completely made up. It’s been cobbled together from politicians good and bad over many generations, and currently makes as much sense as the continued popularity of America Idol.  I tell them heartbreaking, personal stories of clients I’ve worked with (no names of course!), which show the truly ugly picture of our broken immigration system. They’ll look sheepish and say something like “Oh that’s different, I’m not talking about THAT kind of immigrant”. I smile sadly, and say as gently as I can, “But there’s more of this story than you can possibly imagine”.

Well, I may not change the world, or even my little corner of it, but my husband and I are getting very good at publicly defending our chosen fields!  Both are at the forefront of the public’s minds right now, because they both desperately need to be fixed.  Until then, every hostess in the Triangle is scratching the Prathers off their guest lists…..