Olivia Giles’20

The first time I heard about Pine Tree Legal Assistance was at the 2017 Career Planning Non-Profit Symposium at Bowdoin College. Oriana Farnham was a panelist at the event, and she shared her experiences as a paralegal at the organization. I was so intrigued by her work that I immediately went and spoke to her about how her experiences at Bowdoin had prepared her for that job. However, this was not my only encounter with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, or even Ms. Farnham. When I first began working at The Gathering Place last summer, a day-shelter in Brunswick, I spoke with a guest who was using the resources at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in order to settle a land dispute. Throughout the summer I looked into the organization further in order to gather application and eligibility information for other guests at the shelter. The more I learned about the work that Pine Tree Legal Assistance does in order to increase access to legal assistance for the impoverished, the more I saw that my professional and personal interests aligned with the mission of the organization. As a result, when it was suggested to me that I apply for a summer internship by a member of the Board of Directors at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, I knew I had to pursue such an opportunity.

After researching more about the work that Pine Tree Legal Assistance does, and speaking with Ms. Farnham during my interview, I discovered how an internship would enable me to explore my interest in a career in the legal field. Ultimately, I want to become a lawyer who specializes in immigration and resettlement issues. Due to my understanding of the religious and cultural facets of Arab culture and the Arabic language itself, I am interested in advocating for Arabic-speaking individuals who are unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system. As a result of my relevant career goals, I accepted the position at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, because it will provide me with the practical legal experience necessary to better understand what it is like to be a lawyer.

Moreover, Pine Tree Legal Assistance is the best organization for my particular legal interests due to its specific demographics. Pine Tree Legal Assistance, especially the Lewiston branch where I will be located, has been working with an ever-increasing number of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Ms. Farnham is hoping that I will be able to use my Arabic when working with these clients during both intake and community outreach projects. In addition, Pine Tree Legal Assistance works with low income Mainers, and so the cases I will be working on, concerning issues such as housing and benefits, are the types of cases in which many immigrants and refugees are involved. Therefore, this summer internship is able to combine my previous work on poverty with my career interest in law, all while enabling me to further my Arabic skills. I am beyond excited to undertake such a formative experience that will not only benefit me, but also the people I am serving.