At IJM, one thing we take incredible pride in is our interns and fellows program. Intelligent, passionate and adventurous men and women get the opportunity to join us on the grounds in the various areas of work to gain experience and lend their talents to our teams in the field.
We had the privilege of hearing the experience of Kalyn Genuis who worked as an Aftercare Administrator in the IJM Mumbai field office.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I did an internship in the Mumbai office in 2014-2015 – that feels like a long time ago already, which is kind of crazy [laughs]. My husband and I are now living in Victoria, BC. We moved here about a year ago from Edmonton when he started his medical residency. We also have a baby daughter who, interestingly enough, is named after one of the social workers from the Mumbai office. I am also currently doing my Bachelor of Social Work through the University of Victoria. It’s going really well; a lot of work, but I love it!
2) Why are you passionate about issues of injustice and how did you learn about IJM?
I did my undergrad in psychology and in one of my classes near the end of my degree we learned about sex trafficking, and that was really the first time that I’d heard about the issue. So, that started my journey of learning about sex trafficking. Around that same time, I got a hold of the book Good News About Injustice by Gary [Haugen] and it was really challenging, but also inspiring.
The synopsis of the book is that the Good News about injustice is that God is against it and that he wants ordinary people (which really hit me) to be in the business of participating in his work to achieve justice and mercy around the world with issues like sex trafficking. That really spoke to me and gave me an awareness of IJM and what they’re doing.
A few years after I graduated, I was living in Edmonton, wasn’t really satisfied with what I was doing and wasn’t sure what was next. Then someone mentioned to me that there were [IJM] internships, so I applied. Shortly after I was asked if I would be interested in going to Mumbai.
[Looking back], it’s interesting to see how God placed all these things – first I heard about [IJM] in my undergrad, and then I read the book and started supporting IJM financially and then getting your updates. It was these slow, incremental, baby steps which eventually led me to do the internship. And because it is such heavy and difficult work, knowing how Jesus is preparing you for the stories and the work that you’re going to be engaged in where you go. If you hear about sex trafficking, you know the issue – but it’s a slow process of God preparing your heart and preparing you to serve in whatever way you can.
3) Which IJM story is most inspiring to you?
The one story that comes to mind was a rescue that happened shortly before I got [to Mumbai]. I think that the office was still amazed that the rescue had happened, but it was also a really hard [rescue] because there were four girls [trapped] in a small [hidden] space.
The [IJM team] was still getting the girls placed in aftercare homes and deciding what the legal case would look like. It was really cool because throughout the year that I was there, I got to see the process of healing with those girls. I started in September and then in the spring they had a group come from the head office and a few donors, and those girls got to meet with [them] and share their story. It was really cool to see the process of healing that had happened during those few short months. One of those girls talked about how she had prayed to be rescued and that she was so thankful to have been able to get out and so joyful.
The other thing that was happening when I was there was more on a structural level. [IJM Mumbai] were doing police training with 10,000 police officers. The sheer amount of work and perseverance that went into training 10,000 police officers was so crazy. And then to see the changes that happened on the structural level because of those trainings in terms of what happens during a rescue, all the paperwork that needs to be processed and just building those relationships with the police officers from all over the state of Maharashtra.
4) What are been some of the best moments or memories from your experience in the field?
[There are] so many highlights [laughs]!
I loved being a part of the aftercare team – I can talk about them for a really long time! I stayed in contact with a few of them which has been really cool. I learned so much from Melissa, who was the Director of Aftercare at the time. I really appreciated her get-it-done attitude and she had a view of what was going on individually with all of our clients and had a vision of what the system could look like in terms of the aftercare homes. I was always amazed at how many things were running through her head at once and how it all linked to the bigger picture and vision of what they wanted the aftercare system to look like in Mumbai.
Also being a part of the interns and fellowship group. During my time [in Mumbai] I lived in three different apartments with three different groups of women; one was a journalist from New Zealand, [one] was a law student from Michigan and [one] was a lawyer from the Netherlands. It was really sweet how each of unique backgrounds and interests came together to work at IJM. [Living together] also brings lots of challenges as well [laughs], but it was so good. It was sweet to get to live, work and [even] travel together.
5) What were some things that were challenging?
India is not an easy place to live [laughs]. It’s quite an adjustment. I loved it right from the beginning, which I think some people do and some people don’t. I was just so thankful to be there. But the one thing that I found particularly challenging was the extreme poverty that was in your face all the time; seeing little kids begging on the street and the extreme disparity between wealth and poverty. I don’t think I was really prepared for that.
6) While you were in Mumbai, what did you miss most about home?
I missed my family. Communication was hard with the time difference and the internet connection wasn’t always the greatest. So that was definitely hard.
7) Now that you’re back home, what do you miss most about Mumbai?
I miss the people. I miss being part of the [IJM Mumbai] community. There are so many things that happen quickly in the office and things are constantly changing. I think I miss being in the know – the quick updates about what’s going on on-the-ground at all times. It’s been a process of learning to let go of being fully in the know and trusting that [the IJM Mumbai team] is doing incredible things. The [best] way I can support them now is by praying.
8) What was the biggest cultural hurdle you encountered in your time in Mumbai?
In terms of the work itself, a lot of what I did as an aftercare intern was administration – helping to write case notes and transcribe detailed records. I don’t know if it was a cultural hurdle, but it took a long time to understand how the legal system works, what they mean when they refer to different government leaders or ministries and who is responsible for what. And within the aftercare system, what the difference is between a government funded home versus a privately-run home. There’s just so much in terms of how the system works and that took a long time to understand.
Another thing was learning about the structure of Indian society – how the caste system works and the cultural views on women and understanding how that plays a role in the work that IJM does.
The intersectionality of all of those things takes a long time to learn and understand and I don’t think that I will ever fully understand how those pieces fit together.
9) Now that you’re back, what’s next for you?
[Since returning to Canada], I got married and had a baby and most recently have started back at school doing my Bachelor of Social Work, which was partly influenced by working with the social workers at the Mumbai office. I had always had it in the back of my mind [to study social work] and part of the reason why I wanted to do the internship was to see what social work looks like at an international level. I have always been interested in travelling, and my husband and I would love to live somewhere else. [IJM] provided such a cool opportunity to see social work at an international level.
10) What is the #1 piece of advice you would give to anyone who is considering doing an internship or fellowship in an IJM field office?
To do it [laughs]. There are a lot of reasons that people give why you shouldn’t, and obviously, you need to prayerfully consider. When I was in the application process and thinking about raising funds and moving to a different country, which poses some safety risks – all of those things can be huge deterrents to going. But the thing I found is that Jesus can make a way and those things that seem like a huge deal, particularly raising the money, for me, was a huge thing, [aren’t such a huge deal]. There were so many answered prayers and I was amazed by people’s generosity. And on the safety side, there were so many people praying [for me] and there was never really a time when I felt unsafe.
Interested in exploring an internship or fellowship opportunity with IJM?
11) Who had the biggest impact on the person you’ve become?
My parents, for sure, have had a huge impact in terms of my faith and focusing on how we live out our faith practically.
12) What is the strangest food you’ve ever tried?
[Laughs] I did eat some street food in the second half of my internship. I don’t encourage you to do it right off the bat. And people know where the better street food is; although you never really know what you’re getting there. I think my tolerance for spiciness definitely increased. I love spicy food now, which I wouldn’t have said before I went to India.
13) Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
For those who have decided to go [on an internship], be patient and gracious with yourself. It’s a huge adjustment; you’re moving to a different country, doing work that is really hard and working with people from a different culture. It takes a long time to feel comfortable and know what is exactly expected of you and to do it well. So, be patient and gracious with yourself.