Every Month, STAND brings you a quick fire Q&A from people who work in NGOs, with government or in community projects. This month, we speak to Jennifer DeWan who works as Campaigns and Communications Manager with Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I manage our national campaigns and advocacy for reforms to immigration and asylum legislation and policy in Ireland.  This means I work very closely with our CEO, and with our legal service team, to identify key issues that are in need of reform. I develop and deliver campaigning strategies to lobby for those reforms.  

I also manage our media and public communication, which we use to highlight our campaigns and our work generally to promote and vindicate the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland.  This means I get to work closely with with those who are willing to share their stories, which can be both amazing and really heartbreaking work at the same time.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that my work is very much grounded in the experience of people who access our service.  It makes my job much easier because I can rely on people’s actual experience of what is happening to them when they are navigating Ireland’s complex immigration and asylum systems, and what needs to improve.  This gives me a chance to give people who are often seen as powerless or voiceless a voice, which I love.

What do you dislike most?
I find it incredibly frustrating when we work for years and years to improve things, and things don’t change.  When we still have to be fighting for the same things – equality, respect, rights. It can be very disheartening sometimes.

How did you get into this area?
I have always been an activist.  My parents were activists, so I learned it from them.  But most of the work I had done prior to working with Nasc was in a voluntary capacity, so I suppose I kind of entered this area from the back door.  But it meant I have a lot of practical, on the ground experience of working on campaigns, of being innovative in how to approach the work, of doing things on a shoestring, which helps in a small NGO.

What advice would you give to students who want to work in this area?
Unfortunately my advice would be to volunteer – and I say unfortunately because I know not everyone has the luxury of volunteering. But the best way to get into this sector is to learn as you go, and unfortunately organisations like ourselves have very little money for staffing so to get experience, you have to volunteer.

For more information on Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre see here.
Click here to read the previous instalment in this series, where we spoke to Rory O’Neill Integration Project Manager with the Irish Refugee Council.

Photo: Jennifer DeWan, courtesy of Nasc.

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