Joy Prim may only be in her early 20s but she’s already spent time in three different continents and is working her way towards becoming an instrumental activist for immigration and migration reform.
Prim moved to Yadkin County in 1996 with her parents after her father accepted a job as a history professor at Surry Community College. With the move, Prim and her sister were given the opportunity to develop a closer relationship with their grandparents and Prim said this gave her a solid foundation that has paid off in her traveling.
“Both of my parents were teachers so they would stay at their respective schools later and my sister and I would go to our grandparents, do our homework, eat snacks and just spend time with them,” Prim said.
Prim graduated from Forbush High School. As a student there she was an active member of the Future Teachers of America club, manager of the volleyball team and swam on the varsity swim team for four years.
Her junior years of high school Prim took a tour of Pfeiffer University and instantly fell in love with the school. She applied for early graduation and started to get a little worried when an acceptance letter never arrived.
“My acceptance letter got lost in the mail,” Prim laughed. “I got a scholarship package, and so I called and asked if it meant that I had been accepted. They laughed and said yes.”
Prim went on to Pfeiffer where she graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and swam on the varsity swim team for four years.
While swimming was an important part of her college career, it was her first experiences with mission work that would change life as she knew it.
“My junior year at Pfeiffer I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua over spring break and came back and knew that I wasn’t going to go into the classroom after all,” Prim said. “I had been feeling a call to mission for years and I kept trying to convince myself that teaching was mission work. After the trip to Nicaragua the call changed from just mission to an international mission call.”
Once she returned from Nicaragua she was hooked and she began to explore ways to continue her mission work. One of her professors saw her potential and encouraged her to develop a deeper background in theology and to consider applying for the mission intern program through the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Prim said that upon graduation she didn’t have any immediate job prospects available to her and so she decided to enroll in the Pfeiffer University graduate Christian education program.
“In 2010 I went on a mission trip to Kenya,” Prim said. “I came back and knew that in not too long I would be out of the classroom and in the mission field somewhere. I still wasn’t sure how or where.
“Then I had the professor who encouraged me that next semester,” Prim continued. “He gave me the application that he had mentioned to me two years earlier. I didn’t tell anybody I was applying because I didn’t think I would get it.”
It wasn’t long before Prim had to share her application with her friends and family because she received a call to fly out to New York and participate in the application process.
“I went up to interview and for the first time I felt like I was with people who understood me and understood my call to mission,” Prim said. “I came back knowing that if I was accepted I would take the position and the three year contract.”
Prim said that while the intern program does not allow participants to choose where they travel to she was convinced that she would be going to Eastern Europe or Africa. She knew that she would be spending 18 months overseas and another 18 months in the U.S.
“I was beginning to learn Swahili and after my trip to Kenya I really felt a pull to go back there or to Africa,” Prim said. “I got the placement letter and learned that I would be going to Hong Kong, China.
“I knew nothing about Asia at all but my director told me not to freak out and said that there was something telling the board that I would blossom in Hong Kong and to trust God and go,” Prim continued.
While in Hong Kong, Prim worked closely with Mission For Migrant Workers and the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge. The organization was a crisis-counseling center for migrant workers who are mostly domestic workers from Southeast Asia.
Prim worked with others at the center to help empower the migrant workers, teach them about their rights and help to ensure that they won’t find themselves in that position again.
“One thing that attracted me to the intern mission program was the fact that it sent you back to your home country to work in an educational setting,” Prim said. “The reason they leaned towards me was because my passion was women’s rights so they knew that women’s rights fit that location perfectly.”
Prim has returned home for a short visit and will soon be taking off to finish the second half of her internship in Long Beach, Calif. There she will continue her work with immigrants at the Filipino Migrant Center.
Prim said that she is looking forward to her work in California because she won’t have such a large learning curve as she did in Hong Kong.
“I will be in an international network partner of the work I was doing in Hong Kong so I look forward to cutting out a little bit of the learning curve,” Prim said. “I will be able to get more actively involved earlier on in my time. There’s also a lot I need to learn about regulations here in the US that’s going to take time because they keep changing.”
Prim said that she believes that her time spent growing up in Yadkin County has allowed her to be grounded.
“If it wasn’t for the United Methodist Women of Western North Carolina Conference I would not have even known about this program,” Prim said. “I definitely feel like growing up in Yadkin County allowed me to be close to my family, and I was grounded in my faith, my thoughts and in who I was.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.