Meet Erin Aquino, our Bloomington Resettlement Director. Erin started at the beginning of this year, and has been leading our new resettlement office in Bloomington, IN. We asked Erin a few questions so you can learn a little bit about her and what work she does for Exodus!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Indiana and raised on a small organic vegetable farm. I got my undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Peace Studies at Butler University where I traveled abroad to South Africa, India, Bhutan, and Russia. After my degree, I served as an Americorps volunteer on the south side of Chicago working with youth, after which I left the U.S. to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal for two years. Then, I began my work at Exodus Refugee where I worked in several programs until 2019. I earned a fellowship to go to New Mexico State University to get my master’s in social work. In New Mexico, I served asylum seekers on the border as well as became a clinical therapist in a psychiatric hospital working with adults and adolescents with substance use issues and serious mental illness. I am passionate about my work and overcoming oppressive systems to best support and work alongside people and communities experiencing disadvantages.
When I am not at work, I spend most of my free time outdoors – hiking, camping, and kayaking with my two dogs and my spouse. I am working on cultivating more hobbies and recently started learning to play the violin. I also love to spend time with my family back on the farm. Most importantly, I do a mean karaoke performance that rivals the best of ’em.
2. What is your role at Exodus?
I am the Resettlement Director for the Bloomington suboffice. I am responsible for getting the new agency on its feet including finding an office space, hiring and managing staff, volunteers, and interns, building relationships with partners in the community, and ensuring the execution of high-quality services for all refugee arrivals in Bloomington.
3. How did you hear about Exodus and why did you want to get involved?
I worked for Exodus for five years from 2014 – 2019 when I left to obtain my master’s in social work in New Mexico. I recently returned to Indiana to serve in this new role. I initially learned of Exodus in my undergraduate degree through friends and acquaintances. Once I returned from the Peace Corps, I knew I wanted to continue working with international populations as well as continue my work with individuals, families, and communities experiencing marginalization. In all my experiences abroad, I was always welcomed with unconditional warmth and unbridled hospitality. It is a privilege to try and bring that same warmth and hospitality, as well as a new sense of safety, to newcomers in my own community.
4. What language(s) do you speak?
Once upon a time I had a good grasp of Pulaar du Nord – a dialect of Fulani which is a language found throughout West and Central Africa. This is the language I learned while living in a small village in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer.