The final days of my internship served as a period of enlightenment and reflection. I recounted the days when I began working at Fina House and my worries and insecurities. Would the staff members be helpful? Would the workload become too overwhelming? How can I contribute more to the projects at hand? I was pleased with the end result and at the amount of growth that the young women presented after participating in our workshops.
Typically, a workshop day would look something like this: We begin with “highs and lows,” going around in a circle and each person stating the highest (best) moment of their day and their lowest (worst) part. Then we would go into an icebreaker. The icebreaker would be some kind of team building or communication strengthening exercise. Afterward, we would transition into the workshop topic. Each person gets the chance to discuss and comment on the workshop material and their feelings and ideas about it. We would then wrap up the workshop with the “highs and lows” of the lesson. This would help me analyze what worked, as well as what I needed to improve on.
One of my workshop days was replaced with a health workshop on sex and AIDS education. The doctor who hosted the workshop was new to Fina and I assisted him with facilitating dialogue and communication amongst the girls. It is not easy trying to take charge in a new environment but with the right atmosphere and a couple of icebreakers the girls were ready to contribute to the discussion.
The meeting I had with my supervisor was successful. She advised me on which girls in particular I should focus my attention on during workshops. She also suggested a few icebreakers that would make all of them feel more comfortable and willing to participate during discussions.
During one of the discussions about college, a couple of the girls wanted me to assist them in registering for classes in the local community college. I was glad to see them take the initiative. Two other residents had completed their GED (General Education Development) programs and the staff decided to host a celebratory dinner for them. I assisted them with the planning for the event and setting up the dining hall.
This journey was well worth the effort. There were a few residents who were not willing to participate initially but as time progressed they found themselves speaking out and being a part of the team. I devised a portfolio of the workshops that I hosted with the materials that I used and presented it in a folder to my supervisor. I want Fina House to have a documented set of topics to cover for the next intern that they might have, or if any of the girls want to review some of the material. After the last check-in meeting with my supervisor I was reassured by her encouraging words that I would always be welcomed back to the Fina House for any potential internships or social justice projects I had in mind. This internship opened new doors for me in a rewarding field that I hope I can continue to pursue.
After working in Fina House for most of the summer I am having mixed emotions with my progress. I began the internship focused on two separate projects. One was working alongside the Family Counselor of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) and the other one was with the director of the Teen Parenting Program (TPP).
Our goal for the CAP was to create a type of physical activity program for the children who were victims of sexual assault to help manage their trauma. I contacted several different local organizations aimed at the creative arts, sports and academic support for young people. Arrangements have not been finalized for potential partnerships at this time. For the Child Advocacy Program my duties focused on office work as well as work on small projects with the family counselor for the kids.
The progress made with the Teen Parenting Program has me more excited. I have ventured away from only using the Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood (PAYA) material and have incorporated my own lessons into the workshop. I am using various materials that I find, such as, articles, videos online, and magazines, introducing topics that will spark interest and discussion amongst the girls. They all seem to enjoy the discussions and actively participate. It made me feel extremely happy and satisfied to have one of the girls admit she felt comfortable expressing herself about personal issues around me, that usually she never had the opportunity to do so. This taught me how important it is to establish the right atmosphere and a safe space so that all of the young women in the room felt that their opinions were valued and respected.
Next week I will begin weekly meetings with the director of TPP to discuss the content of the workshops and so that she may provide any materials or accommodations necessary for participants. I feel she has been open to discussing any problems/ideas thus far, and I am glad we will now have formal meetings.
Even though this internship is already halfway through I still believe that there is much to be done. I will continue working to explore possible partnerships for CAP. The staff at Fina is always welcoming of new ideas and I am always asking questions for any type of feedback or advice on how to improve the workshops.
This summer I am interning at the YWCA Fina House in Lawrence, MA. The Fina House was opened in 2005 and houses low-income individuals, teen mothers, and homeless domestic violence survivors. The mission of the YWCA is to eliminate racism and empower women. Being an Hispanic woman myself I share this goal. Initially I heard about Fina House from a friend who had wanted to volunteer there. I contacted different members until I was finally able to discuss the idea of a potential internship with the co-director of Women’s Services. The process went smoothly, they had had other interns before, and I was more than willing to partake in this experience.
My employment officially began on June 10th. I will be working on two separate projects; one with the Family Counselor on the Child Advocacy Project (CAP) and the other with TPP (Teen Parenting Program). Part of the mission of the Child Advocacy Project is “to assist victims and their families to stabilize, initiate healing from trauma, and take steps to seek justice”. The children in the CAP are victims of sexual abuse or rape; there are 12 kids currently in the program. We are reaching out to collaborate with local programs to establish a recreational activity for the kids to get involved with. The Teen Parenting Program focuses on empowering young women through self-esteem/financial workshops to help them become economically/emotionally independent. I have been assigned to host workshops with the 8 young women twice a week. One day will be geared towards Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood (PAYA) and the other will be an active workshop in which we will focus on their health by doing physical activities.
All of this seemed quite overwhelming at first, but the staff at Fina have been extremely helpful and welcoming. On my first day on the job I went with a staff member to the YWCA in the nearby town of Haverhill. The staff member and another colleague were hosting a presentation on domestic violence. It was an eye opening experience witnessing the impact that their words had on the audience. One young female sitting in the crowd sobbed quietly. After the presentation, both YWCA employees went to the young girl and offered their services to help in whatever situation she might be going through.
My experience with Fina so far has been warm and positive; this week I will begin to instruct the TPP girls with the PAYA material. I chose to begin with Personal Care, Health, Social Skills, and Safety (the basics, and we can dive into the more difficult topics later on).
I feel very honored to be working with a group of determined, strong women helping other women become self sufficient and empowered. My career plans are to involve myself with non-profits and gain experience and knowledge on how to effectively provide the most help to individuals. Working at Fina House will be an important step in helping me accomplish my goals and I am sure that I will develop more goals throughout the summer.