Pictured: Megan Holmes appears here, second from left, with other volunteers.
Megan Holmes, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, has roots in public service. Growing up, her parents worked with children who experienced trauma in Belfast, Northern Ireland and her mother traveled to the Soviet Union to work with teachers. Megan herself spent six months as a volunteer in Guatemala in 2005.
In her work with King County she pursues this passion every day as a senior social worker with the Child Care Health Program. Here she helps children develop the social and emotional skills needed to build positive relationships. Her role also takes her out to different childcare and preschool sites across the county, providing widely needed mental health support to teachers and children.
Working to improve the lives of families in her community has also expanded to include a faraway place called McAllen, Texas.
Every year, Megan volunteers to work with newly arrived refugees fleeing significant gang violence in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. They have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and released to stay with family members while they await an opportunity to request asylum in the United States. When they are released, Central American refugees are brought to a respite center in McAllen, Texas where Megan and other volunteers greet them. Families are provided with a warm meal, shower, clean clothes, and a chance to call their families. This year, a crew from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 visited the shelter. Watch the video here.
The incredibly powerful experience of working to provide safety and security for these families has brought her back to volunteer three years in a row. She can easily draw a line from her King County work to her volunteer experience.
“I think being a mental health clinician, part of what motivates me to volunteer with this is certainly the thoughts of the hardship and the trauma these folks are experiencing,” she said.
With a background in clinical psychology fine-tuned by working at Public Health for the last nine years, Megan uses her skills to help families and children escaping violence and poverty in Central America for a better life in the United States.
“The experience has certainly given me a much greater awareness of the challenges and needs faced by refugee and immigrant communities,” she said. “It’s given me a closer look at the difficulties they face by systems that may not support them.”
“It’s been eye opening in that way.”
The experience has also been rewarding in other ways. Megan admits working with individuals in such life-changing situations has made her more aware.
“It has also been a good lesson in humility,” she said. “Getting to know people who have had to leave their homes is both unimaginable and humbling.”
Megan expresses great pride in knowing that her employer is a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees and has shared her volunteer experience with others, hoping they too will get involved at any level. This now includes her volunteer-oriented parents.
“I was incredibly gratified to see from both the city and the county that we are an inclusive place, a place where we have such progressive thinkers,” she said. “And now even my mom has been with me to volunteer in Texas.”
To learn more about Megan’s work with refugees and immigrants, or to speak with her about the Child Care Health Program and its efforts in health promotion and disease prevention, contact her at Megan.Holmes@kingcounty.gov.