The last post of the semester comes to us from Women’s Studies minor Emily Drone, who writes about her practicum experience at Oasis Women’s Center. It was a treat to talk to Emily earlier this week about her experiences this semester: the pleasure she took from learning more about domestic violence and from actively working to help an organization that is so deeply supportive of women during an exceptionally difficult time in their lives was clear. As she reminds us in this post, simple gestures and small steps can be among the most meaningful in our lives.
When I first spoke with Dr. Seltzer about a practicum for spring 2013, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. My first instinct was that I wanted to help someone, do something hands on for once in my college career. She mentioned Oasis Women’s Shelter and I was intrigued by it but also at the same time nervous about it. A women’s shelter? That sounds like a tough and mentally exhausting job. She encouraged me to go listen to Marcy Jacobs speak during a class period in the fall, and that was what sealed the deal. The statistics that Marcy gave out about domestic violence were phenomenal, but not in the good way. They stuck with me, which is when I knew that was where I wanted to go.
When I first showed up to the shelter in Alton, I was extremely anxious. I had no idea what I was getting myself into Justina, the volunteer coordinator turned out to be exceptionally nice and I know I shouldn’t have expected any differently, honestly. It turned out that I had to complete 40 hours of training before I could do any real work. I was a little overwhelmed by the 40 hours, but at the same time, the training we did was so informative. I don’t see myself leaving that training behind the day that I leave the shelter for the last time. It’s something that I can use to empower myself and others that I will encounter throughout my life. We did online training, watched a few videos, and I met with a few of the other workers from Oasis about topics like the legal side of things, and children and domestic violence. The fact that we did different types of training made it go by quickly.
I had thoughts going through my head that I was not going to be able to handle the situations I was about to put myself in to. I was afraid that I would really mess up or that I would offend someone. I was also afraid that this internship would be something I would never be able to get off of my mind and that my mind would stay heavy with situations I was seeing and hearing about. But in fact it was quite the opposite. Volunteering at the shelter provided me with such a warm feeling that I was doing something good that I was unable to feel bad about anything. It has empowered me and made me want to do more. Working at the front desk as I do now, although it is not much, is something worth doing. I’m taking part in a place that works to do good for women that have nowhere else to go. The shelter is a place that works to empower these women and give them the tools to succeed after they hit rock bottom. Answering the door and the phone may be small things but they count towards the bigger goal of helping women against domestic violence. The women that I work with at the shelter are all extremely nice and work so hard to help these women out. I enjoy going there every Friday and taking a step back from my reality into someone else’s. It’s important that we put ourselves out there and put forth good in the world. I’m glad I jumped on this chance. I’m proud of myself for doing something I doubted I could accomplish. I’m proud of myself for completing the training and learning more about domestic violence and what it is truly about. I hope to someday find myself back in a shelter doing more volunteer work.
One of my last days going in, I was on my way out for the afternoon and one of the staff members stopped me to tell me something. All she said was that they loved having me come in every week. It was such a simple gesture but it reinforced that the simple, various tasks I am doing are for something good. That is what it is all about.