Please see the reflection below from Becca Dean, Bonner Class of ’16.
Written by: Becca Dean
I had the good fortune of spending this past summer in Baltimore, Maryland at PACT Therapeutic Nursery as a Shepherd Poverty Alliance summer intern. PACT provides childcare, mental health support, and other resources, for homeless families with infants and toddlers. The large majority of children at PACT, and often their relatives, have severe developmental delays and other health-related complications stemming from the situations in which they live. I had a wide variety of responsibilities in this position, from classroom time to administrative tasks to interviewing and assisting therapy sessions to data collection and compilation. In undertaking these responsibilities and the immersive nature of the summer program in these past eight weeks, I have gained understanding and experience that I will surely carry with me back to school and throughout my life.
I have been involved in some type of service for the majority of my young life, and have always taken an interest in being informed about poverty. Upon starting college at W&L last year, the Bonner program seemed like the perfect fit for me, and I was anxious to become a part of it. Through my service with Bonner, I have been able to become more involved in the agencies I serve at around Lexington, becoming a regular servant in areas of significance to me instead of just a random volunteer here and there. What I have learned through the beginnings of my Bonner experience is the impact of longevity and consistency when serving at an agency, and my summer internship both reinforced and taught me even more about this concept.
In working 8 hour days at the same agency for eight weeks, I was not just a volunteer or an intern, I was staff. I was able to build up trust with both my co-workers and PACT’s clients, many of whom were very guarded and hard to get through to initially as a product of their home lives. I formed relationships with families from very different backgrounds from my own, and through these bonds I was able to learn so much more than I could by merely providing my time and resources for charity. We were friends, and I was there to listen when they needed someone to, and by listening my eyes were opened to the daily struggle to function and move forward that is poverty. I saw hope and determination, and the need for support, which I did my best to provide. I found myself putting more heart and more of myself into my service than ever before as a result of these bonds. I was not just volunteering or helping out to help, I was doing my part to alleviate the burden of the poverty that people I knew, my friends and peers, were living under.
I am so thankful for the opportunities I was given this summer through my Shepherd internship, and for the continuous opportunities available to me through Bonner. Both programs have allowed me to become involved in serving agencies consistently and more intensively than I would be able to volunteering independently, and it is through this longevity and constancy that relationships are formed, which are at the heart of what makes service so important and meaningful.