How does a graphic design major from Belmont University become a Resettlement Specialist? For Frances Anderson, the road ran through Southeast Asia, Thailand in particular.
After graduating from Belmont University, Frances had her mind set on moving to England. She tried to convince a friend to join her, but her friend had another idea: Thailand, where her father in law was working at Chiang Mai University. Thus, Frances began her journey and moved to Thailand. Upon arrival, she enrolled in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program at Chiang Mai University, one of the most renowned universities in Thailand, and became certified to teach English as a Foreign Language.
With a new set of skills, Frances embarked on another adventure as she began to utilize her skills and work in Thailand. This adventure landed her with several different companies and organizations: helping at English camps for Kindergarten and Pre-K children, and teaching English for Tourism at Payap Technology and Business College. She also used her graphic design background and designed an “inspiring t-shirt and banner” for Payap.
Never one to sit idle, Frances sought out other ways to get involved in the community. On Saturdays she volunteered at an orphanage, playing with the children. Through a friend, she learned about the We Women Foundation, an organization that serves the needs of Burmese women refugees. Frances volunteered with the organization and helped a student prepare for the TOEFL test. This experience helped Frances learn about Burma’s history, its conflicts and their effects on the lives of Burmese refugees.
Her experiences travelling throughout the region during the year, including Cambodia, helped Frances learn about the country’s history and its peoples’ struggle to rebuild their lives. She also got to see how other Southeast Asian countries responded to people seeking refuge and found out various countries’ capacity to help these refugees.
Frances’ time in Southeast Asia shaped her desire to continue learning about and working with refugees. Back in Nashville after a year of living abroad and with a desire to continue to help people who were trying to “build new lives after having experienced extreme struggles,”, she began volunteering for CRIT (Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee). She was then hired as a Site Coordinator for the after-school program and worked with a site that was at first predominantly Burmese refugees, with the Bhutanese population increasing.
Wanting to help refugees even more, Frances applied to become the NICE Resettlement Specialist and continues to serve the refugee population through the work that she does now, helping many refugee families become self-sufficient.
Frances’ adventure continues as she works alongside refugees in Nashville helping them find jobs and learning about their journeys to America. Who knows where the next chapter in the adventure will take her.