My internship experience was incredibly positive. And I think that overall I had different challenges and feelings than a typical intern. As the Housing Clinic intern, it was pretty much up to me to assist clients desperately in need of affordable, safe, and sanitary housing. This was a daunting, intense, and sometimes discouraging task. I had wonderful guidance and supervision, however it was up to me to meet and speak with clients. I did my best to utilize my resources (two of which are MassResources and MassLegalHelp), research new resources, and serve the clients to the best of my ability. There were clients who came in, however, and families I worked with, that sometimes I knew my work would ultimately not do much good. I served as an encouraging force, a safe person to talk to, and a resource for information that may or may not pan out. This was a definite challenge to my somewhat idealist and young desire to build upon my personal concepts of social justice in attempts to better the community of Waltham, Massachusetts.
What I’ve learned through this is a lot about the small things. Knowing that I can’t fix all the problems that families come in with: struggling with immigration status, in need of work, all but completely homeless, struggling to feed their children. But I strove to start with the little things. Little things like food stamps, food pantries, soup kitchens, day centers, shelters. Although their living problems seem immense, the most success I found throughout my internship was in these little things, that in reality, provide success and do go a long way. So although I was challenged daily, mentally and emotionally, and my previously idealist conceptions of social justice were challenged with too immense and real issues, they were affirmed through the small successes I had with all the clients I met with; their thanks, their empowerment and their small success little by little. I just had to keep in mind, and continue to keep in mind, that since I am only one person, it is the small accomplishments that truly do make a difference.
It definitely helps to have previously volunteered in the clinic when starting this internship. It is an amazing opportunity and provides a great opportunity, however the work is intense and the responsibility plentiful. It helps to at least me familiar with the community resources so you can help each client efficiently and with the most appropriate resources. Another thing I learned was that people won’t always come in for housing problems. WATCH is known as a helpful resource and a place to seek help regardless of your immigration status. A lot of problems that did crop up dealt with immigration and the newly implemented Secure Communities. At WATCH we worked to inform all our members about Secure Communities and their rights when it comes to the police. Check out the two flyers I created for our community members!
– Molly Lortie ’13