Minnesota is the home of a unique organization, the Center for Victims of Torture. In 1985, the Center was founded to give aid to immigrants and refugees. Many of whom were living in Minnesota communities and were in need of help to heal from psychological as well as physical wounds of politically motivated torture. The Center has been a resource in Minnesota the past 16 years. Many immigrants have become successfully assimilated into the American culture while being productive citizens.
Burge DeWitt has been a volunteer at the Center for Victims of Torture for the past six years. Clients receive a myriad of services, but they cannot receive them if they are not able to get there. Thus transportation is a vital part of the organization. DeWitt takes pride in transporting clients. He has to deal with frequent schedule changes, heavy traffic, and sometimes-difficult winter driving conditions.
Many clients are unable to get to appointments at the Center or to other necessary medical appointments without the assistance of volunteer drivers. DeWitt has been the most active volunteer driver at the Center. During his years of service, he has driven clients to appointments 3 to 4 days per week to 6 or more appointments. His volunteer service is a community support that enables citizens who may other wise feel alone and isolated become encouraged and supported. The clients not only have to deal with being survivors of torture, but they also have to learn about a new culture in the United States.
The most important concern for DeWitt is making his clients feel comfortable and getting them to all of their scheduled appointments. He not only is a part of the transportation at the Center, but he effectively advocates for the clients so they are able to receive the assistance that is available to them. Clients have complemented him on his steady and calm demeanor; they feel like they have a friend with him. Because of his commitment to the Center, he has developed relationships with the clients he regularly transports. Those relationships are therapeutic for the clients, and the Center believes his work goes far beyond being a volunteer; he is a companion and a friend.
DeWitt has to deal with challenging situations while working at the Center. He intuitively responds appropriately and takes special care with everyone, and this is particularly important to those who come to the Center for assistance. He does not shirk from challenging situations, but he is willing to work with whatever he confronts and turn what may seem to be a problem into another opportunity to help someone. During one of his days a service, DeWitt encountered a frightened and anxious child. He immediately positioned himself within a comfortable distance and calmly read a soothing story to the child. He took this opportunity to sooth the child and make the youth feel more comfortable. DeWitt understands the emotional needs of children and makes it his mission to be consistent, reliable, and protective of their safety. He practices interventions that are specific to the child and works well as a treatment team member also.
In addition to working with the Center, Burge DeWitt serves in his church. He is a sacristan for the morning communion service at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church several days weekly. He also leads the service twice a week and provides transportation to senior parishioners.