With volunteer experience in Sierra Leone and India, a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degrees in theological studies in urban and international development, Soha Orsburn brought a passion for working with and helping diverse communities to her role as military spouse in 2015. Her husband was a reservist who worked in a church before becoming a Navy chaplain. His first set of orders took the couple to San Diego, California and Soha began looking for a way to use her skills and education.
“Lots of people told me about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society,” she recalled. “The reputation of the Society in the community really stood out. People spoke quite highly of the Society and how it was meeting the needs of the military community, which is important to me. I applied to be a volunteer and I’ve loved it ever since.” Soha started as a caseworker and was eventually hired as a relief services assistant in the San Diego office.
“I remember a young mother who came into the office,” Soha said. “She had three kids under four years old. One of her parents had died and the Society had provided emergency travel assistance so she could attend the funeral. The young mother was struggling to repay the loan. We reviewed her budget and talked with the director who approved converting the loan into a grant. The client gave me a hug and wept.”
On a day-to-day basis, Soha valued those moments when she could see that her client was beginning to understand how to take charge of their personal finances. “Some clients just didn’t seem to grasp it but when I’d show them their monthly income and expenses, they would start leaning in, asking questions and getting engaged, I’d know they were finally understanding their responsibility for managing their finances. When the light goes on, I love it.”
“I realized that the Society empowers volunteers to do something valuable,” she explained. “I was discovering and learning new things, which I really I appreciate. As I continued to work with NMCRS and became a paid member of the staff, I saw the impact the Society had on service members, retirees and military families and the impact it had on volunteers. There are very few organizations that change the lives of clients and volunteers. Often, working with the Society is a volunteers’ anchor—it gives them purpose. Especially for military spouses who’ve moved around a lot and been out of the workforce, they gain very transferable skills at the Society. Lots of volunteers in San Diego moved onto regular employment and came back saying they used examples of their work at NMCRS when they were interviewing for jobs.”
After two years in San Diego, Soha’s husband received orders to the Naval Academy as a battalion chaplain and the family PCS’d to Annapolis, Maryland. Soha now works as a part-time caseworker at NMCRS headquarters. “I appreciate this opportunity because it rounds out my casework experience. It allows me to learn from people who have a lot of experience and knowledge. The team here is incredibly helpful in guiding me and enabling me to see the different parts of what the Society does.”
“I appreciate working with people from all different cultures and walks of life,” Soha said. “I love that the Society impacts the communities where military people live. As large as the organization is, it’s very community-oriented, and I love being a part of that.”
Welcome to headquarters, Soha!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso