Thursday, June 4, 2009

STUDENT REFLECTION - Christel House - Erin Erhardt

I was really, really nervous going into my internship on the first day, both because I had very little idea what I would actually be doing and because I had no experience with social work. As the first week went on (the days before we started our internships), I just kept feeling more and more anxious. The day before we started working, we went to tour the internships, and that helped to change my feelings a lot—I still didn’t really know what I’d be doing, but I knew more about Christel House and the short presentation re-piqued my excitement and my readiness to get started.

Once we got started, I felt a lot better, even though we didn’t end up where we thought we would be: there wasn’t room for us (Megan and me) with the social workers, so we basically got stuck in the remedial room with a teacher called Miss Fran helping to teach students (some of whom can barely speak English) how to read and do math. That, however, definitely turned out to be a blessing-- it was a wonderful experience and it definitely showed me how much even a little bit of help (or a 3-week intern) can give. I learned way more than I ever expected.

Even though, since I’m only working in one room, my role in the organization is really quite small, I can definitely see how big of an effect it has and how important my role is within the organization. Without people like us, without remedial room teachers, the students we work with would continue to struggle and fall further behind, and Christel House’s mission, to educate and break the cycle of poverty, could not be achieved—and the children deserve better than that. They deserve the chance to make a better life for themselves. I’ve seen them work and they try so hard just to read a simple word or solve a math problem. For the most part, they want to be there and want to learn, and they deserve that chance. And that is where Christel House fits within the larger pursuit of human rights in South Africa—they are trying to give the children there that chance, the chance to improve their lot in life.

At first, while really enjoying my internship, I was a little jealous I wasn’t doing something like Adam, or Abby, or especially Cameron, who were working with very powerful organizations where they worked directly with important people in the organization (that’s not to say the children at Christel House are not important) and adults who are already making a direct difference to South Africa and even the world. I mean, they made amazing connections and learned so much about the human rights movement. I was working at a school that, while they definitely appreciated the help (Miss Fran really needs people like Megan and I to come help her, and the school seemed understaffed in general), they didn’t necessarily really seem to care so much that we were there, for the most part. However, after a few days, I realized that I was helping and making a difference. While not making the same connections as some of the other students in my group, I was helping children who could grow up to be the next generation of human rights activists, children who adored us and appreciated our help. And that, in itself, counts for quite a bit.

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