Lost in translation: Social Work student researches how overlooked refugees find ways to cope

Jessica Gaddy

Jessica Gaddy

Jessica Gaddy spent three weeks last summer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, researching the psychosocial challenges and coping mechanisms of refugees, and she found the experience to be eye-opening. Her interest in the field has not dimmed since her return to the U.S. and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Gaddy — a second-year student in the Master of Social Work Program — became involved in refugee research through Hyojin Im, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work, who trains health care and service providers about mental health care needs for victims of trauma in Kuala Lumpur.

“I soon found so much purpose and interest in this particular research field because refugees are such an underrecognized population that faces insurmountable daily challenges,” Gaddy said.

Among the refugees Gaddy interviewed and studied in Kuala Lumpur were Syrian, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, Kachin, Chin and Somali. Gaddy knew very little about the refugee population prior to the research, and her interest continued to grow with her involvement.

“Despite their conditions, I couldn’t fathom … how they were the most hopeful and positive people I ever met,” Gaddy said.

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