Samaritan Ministry is fortunate to have Benja Reilly as a Casework Intern at the Northwest Office through the Westmoreland Service Corps in Bethesda, MD. Benja was called to service early in his life. At age seven, he began to serve as an interpreter for his mother, who is deaf. He calls ASL (American Sign Language) his first language because that is how he first communicated with his mother.
A religion major at Carleton College in Wisconsin, Benja chose Spanish as his minor in recognition of the importance of language in his life. Benja’s mother is Thai, so he experiences life as a bi-racial man. He reports that he is comfortable being between two cultures, which along with his language background, makes him a person who can readily empathize with others who are facing challenges of self-acceptance.
In choosing Carleton, a highly-respected liberal arts college, Benja wanted a place where he could cultivate the attributes of openness, compassion and a willingness to engage with all points of view, just as both his father and grandfather demonstrate, while finding intellectual rigor and a diversity of experiences.
Benja is one of five fellows through the Westmoreland Congregational Congregation, of the United Church of Christ denomination. He and the other four fellows are all placed in social action organizations, and live in an intentional community of shared goals for their ten-month program. The group meets weekly with a community counselor.
When asked what brings him satisfaction in his work with SMGW, Benja said, “I want to empower people to become more self-reliant and confident about what they can do. I am happiest when a participant can do something on their own that they couldn’t do before. It could be as big as someone learning how to navigate on their own on-line – acquiring basic digital literacy.”
When his time at SMGW ends, Benja expressed a desire to reflect on his time at Samaritan Ministry first and then explore possible opportunities in the Midwest or the West Coast of the U.S. Graduate school may be an option, as well as living abroad.