A (Mon)day in the life…

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As promised, this entry is the first in a series of posts to share with you a taste of what it is like to be the House of Friendship Social Service Intern. I thought I would break these entries into smaller posts by day, so as to not overwhelm you with too many stories. So, here you have it: a Monday in the life of the Social Service Intern.

I am generally at the Emergency Food Hamper Program all day on Mondays (as well as on Thursday mornings and all day on Fridays). When I first arrive at 8:30 in the morning, I am always greeted with a friendly hello from all of the staff and volunteers. For the first two and a half hours, I get to work with the other volunteers and staff who are working in the warehouse. Here, I do things like stock shelves full of items that we provide to patrons – anything from soup, yogurt and pasta to diapers, baby food and dog food. Or, I help bag potatoes or carrots into smaller bags that will be shared in the food hampers. It’s always interesting to see the variety of items that are donated to us, as we receive donations from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, Loblaws, and individual donations from members of the community. I have found that since working in the warehouse, I have learned so much about food itself – such as what different types of exotic vegetables are used for, or when foods are good until. (For instance, did you know that yogurt is typically good for 14 days after its best-before date? Who knew?) There’s never a dull moment in the warehouse, and the staff and volunteers are always chipper and ready to serve others with joy.

Recently, I finished learning about our intake process and getting some more experience doing intake. We open our doors to the public at 11:00am, and at that time, I am helping at intake. After a while of working in intake to help with the morning rush, I move back and forth between intake and packing food hampers.

Intake involves sensitively welcoming patrons as they come and getting some basic information from them to pull up their files (see Matt’s post here).  I find this part of the job fascinating, for a number of reasons.  Something that I find myself reacting internally to is the diversity in the  ages of patrons who come to use the food hamper program, and the broad scope of life experiences  from which each one comes.

I’ve heard the saying “curiosity, rather than judgement” before. That string of words continues to play through my mind during my experiences here at hampers. Say, for example, there is a patron who may have already had 9 visits with us in a year instead of the “theoretical limit” of 6, and wants another hamper today. Suddenly, I have a choice in front of me. I can grow impatient and frustrated, wondering why this patron doesn’t seem to abide by our guidelines. Or, I can choose to act with grace and patience, perhaps remaining open to the different reasons why this person may be in more dire need for emergency food than just the six hampers a year can satisfy. I can gently explain to this patron how we can help today, and maybe ask more questions to determine what sorts of other resources he or she could access for food in the future.

Often, in asking for a patron’s birthday to pull up a file, I learn that there is a man or woman who is exactly, or near to, my age, or the same age as my siblings (as Mike had experienced, and written about here; or as Allison shared in this post). Suddenly, the person on the other side of the counter is no longer just the person on the other side of the counter. In our short interaction, I see myself in them. Or I see my best friend, or my twenty-year-old twin brothers. It really is amazing how personal it makes things, and how much it makes me appreciate how my life has turned out so far. It just so happens that I have enough money to live comfortably in an apartment with enough food to satisfy. It just so happens that life events have happened, for me, in such a way that I do not find myself wondering where my next meal will come from. But when I am looking at a woman on the other side of the counter who is around my age and who has three kids plus herself to support, I find myself overwhelmed. I realize again and again how easily my life could look different. How easily the tables could be turned. Because really, I require food as much as a patron who comes into our program does. We are both equals in life, in society and in our necessity of food. The only difference is the amount of available resources that each of us has.

These are just some of the experiences through which I am learning a great deal at House of Friendship. There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue to learn exponentially more through the rest of my time here.

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One Response to “A (Mon)day in the life…”

  1. Closer to Home « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] to Home by Sarah As myself and a few others have written about in the past, the experience of providing food to patrons […]

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