Below is a reflection of my internship expereience at Save Them Now (Community Re-Entry) Program; Kingston, NY.
SOWK 540 Internship
Professor Whitney (Faculty Advisor)
Save Them Now
At the start of my internship I was beyond nervous, and despite knowing that it would benefit me in the future I didn’t actually want to do it. I had heard many horror stories about the way interns are treated at times, and also I was weary of having to do so much without getting paid. It surprises me how far I’ve come, in the few short weeks it seems that I spent at my internship I have been able to see myself grow as a person and as a future Social Worker.
Having organized my internship in a unique way, with a six week break in the center I was able to have two mini internships in one larger internship. The first four weeks of my internship was spent doing mostly administrative things, then the six weeks after my break was spent solely on Social Work and building relationships with the clients. This unique way of setting up my internship also allowed me to truly critique my knowledge base as I was expected to be able to do a wide range of tasks, some of which weren’t stereotypically Social Work tasks.
At the beginning of my internship at Save Them Now I was asked to revamp the website, make it more attractive to visitors, easier to read and navigate, and also easier for donations to be made. At the time that this project was assigned I was rather frustrated with it, I found the idea important, but a waste of the knowledge I had about Social Work. Yet this task became one of the most important tasks that I did all summer. As this task required me to spend lots of time on the internet researching and then implementing my changes I spent all my time at Save Them Now in the director’s office. As I was able to spend a lot of time with the Director I was able to learn a lot about the field of re-entry outside of Save Them Now. Also working on the website required me to have a good grasp on how the program works as I was required to put that information on the internet.
Yet the real surprise came from the way the clients began to thank me, word quickly got out that I had found, activated, and installed a new means for donations on the web page and clients began flocking to thank me. As the clients warmed up to me after the installation of the NY Charities button, I found that if they came looking for the director and he wasn’t there they would spend some time talking to me. It was in these early conversations with clients that I realized how important Save Them Now was to them, and how important all re-entry programs must be to people getting out of prison.
These conversations eventually morphed into me doing testimonial interviews for the website (I can’t post the testimonials until I receive permission from the client’s, I’m still actively working on getting their permission). The interviews were extremely personal and I found myself using the skills and techniques I had learned in Social Work Skills and Counseling Methods for the first time outside of the classroom.
The interviews were the last thing that I did before leaving for my six week break, and although I felt that I was leaving at an awkward time, it turned out that everything was fine. When I returned many of the clients were interested in hearing what I did when I was up at the college. Also since I had already begun building a relationship with the clients who had been there during my time volunteering in the winter and then again during my first mini internship, by these clients intereacting with me when new clients were around the new clients where then more likely to come to me and talk to me.
As I embarked on the second phase of my internship I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I had been during the first phase, inteasted I was filled with worries about completeing my hours on time, how I was going to juggle my two jobs and an internship, and then what I would actually do at my internship as many of the tasks I was going to be required to do I had already completed. Luckily the director of Save Them Now was very open to me doing just about anything and he came up with the idea of me running some sort of class.
I did a lot of research on what I would be doing with the clients and often I worried if I would be able to handle this type of situation. I knew that I could deal with the clients individually as I had many different interactions with them individually and knew a lot about them. However because Save Them Now’s primary focus in on providing safe, sober, housing; most of the focus is on helping the clients get what they need through outside agencies, therefore Save Them Now usually provides individual counseling to help understand the needs of individual clients.
Yet still despite my concerns I found the reassuring support of the staff at Save Them Now, so instead I went forward in my research and decided that I would run a three week group dealing with healing through writing. I decided to focus on healing through writing because I want to have a subject that all the clients could benefit from and a topic that we could talk about in a broad sense because I wasn’t sure if the clients would want to share much with the other clients; as I knew that some of the clients were closer than others.
The group was very enthusiastic and listened a great deal to everything I said, it surprised me that the clients that showed up were the more harden criminals that had been in and out of prison for most of their lives. The group also focused a lot on what the different types of writing where and how to go about writing those types of writings, because most of the participants had little in the means of formal education.
Ultimately I was very surprised how much benefit the clients got from the group, my original goal was to help them come to terms with at least one life event in order to help them move on. I had chosen that as the focus because so many of the clients would always tell me about the different ways they were put down during their lives. I thought this exercise would be a good one to help them get over it. Instead however many of the clients used my workshop as a way to reconnect with people in their lives who their crimes had affected.
This internship has changed me for the better, I know wholeheartedly that I want to go into Social Work. Having seen the many different roles that a Social Work would need to be able to assume while working in a group home setting, I would like to know a lot more about working in the residential setting, as well as need to get my MSW so that I can run groups like this again in the future. Despite the hard work that I know is ahead of me I will always remember the last conversation I had with one of the clients, he thanked me, he said he made more progress with his father after doing the writing I told him about then he has in years. I know that not everyone I work with will be a success story but having that success will help me keep working, and remind me what I’m working for.