Our Media and Marketing intern, Haley Allaben, shares her experience of interning with #TeamBethany.
Why did you choose Bethany?
I was looking for an internship that would not only hone in on the pre-existing skills I had but also one that would truly challenge me both technically and socially. I wanted to be able to truly connect with not just my co-workers but also people in Edinburgh during my short time living here. Luckily, I was paired with Bethany and I don’t think I could have ever asked for a better internship experience.
What aspects of your volunteering/interning experience with us did you enjoy and why?
I don’t think there were any parts of my internship experience that I didn’t enjoy. I loved each aspect because every time I was pushed to do something new, I learned something different that altered my perspective on Bethany, on homelessness, on what I could be doing to help.
The opportunity to actually connect with the staff immediately in my office, the staff working in our Centre, Care Shelter, on our Care Van as well as the intensely driven and courageous individuals who utilise Bethany’s services was beyond what I could have imagined. To hear their stories, how much they have gone through, what more they hope to give to those in need and to themselves is truly inspiring. I could have listened to volunteers, staff and the men and women benefiting from Bethany services all day because they mean every word of what they say about how Bethany Christian Trust has transformed their lives. It was just really rewarding to be a part of an organization making a difference on communities across Scotland.
How do you feel your time with Bethany was beneficial and what did you learn?
It was SO beneficial! I can’t even begin to describe just how much I learned from Bethany, the staff and volunteers.
Bethany has really taught me patience. When you’re working with often delicate and personal information, it’s really important to respect the boundaries of others. This is their story to share and understanding when they are ready to share it and how they want to tell it is key. I think I’ve also learned the importance and impact small acts can have on those around me and especially on a community. Having the opportunity to volunteer in the Care Van was one of my favourite experiences because I had the chance to do something as simple as make a hot cup of coffee or tea for someone who’s day may have been made better by just that little act. It says so much that despite the challenges ahead, each and every day the staff at Bethany get up and go out with the goal of ending homelessness, of improving the lives of people in their very community and would do it over and over again. They have the greatest attitudes and from that I’ve learned so much. Seeing how positive and innovative – how determined they are to find new ways of tackling the crisis of homelessness was really inspirational and motivating for me.
What is the most significant thing you are taking away with you from your internship?
I think one of the biggest things I’ll take away from my time here is that you never know what is going on in someone’s life. In the United States, we don’t really talk about hidden homelessness; there’s a standard, stereotypical image of “homelessness” and that’s all you tend to see. I went to a large public high school and as I look back now, I’m sure I had classmates I had no idea were struggling with their housing, family, or their personal life because they never showed it publicly. Homelessness can look like anyone. Just because they appear one way does not indicate a truth of what their reality is. For me, the lesson has been one of stepping back to see the person as a whole. I think too often we – including myself – only see people for their greatest faults or highest successes without looking at them holistically. Humans are complex. I know I have to continue engaging with people without assumption, hearing from them the truth they live and the challenges they face.
What would you change about your volunteering/internship experience with us?
It sounds really cheesy but nothing. I’ve absolutely loved every minute of the work I’ve done with Bethany. Every day presents new, daunting challenges and new, exciting progress. It’s been a pleasure to work with a charity that wants to find new ways of engaging with their donors, benefactors and staff. Just seeing colleagues light up at a few pounds donated or hearing about the progress of people they’ve assisted in the past is really humbling. The individuals I’ve met care deeply about the work and services they are providing because they believe that everyone deserves dignity, respect and a second chance.
Would you be keen to volunteer/intern again and why?
I would volunteer again and again and again! I have actually taken a position at home in Indianapolis with a foundation working to raise money for medical advancements and progress.
I have learned so much from my time here at Bethany and have loved working to improve the lives of others, even in the smallest of ways. It’s humbling to know that the work you’re doing is changing people’s lives, helping them to pursue the goals and dreams they’ve always wanted to accomplish. Every day you hear how so-and-so is getting a new home placement, or someone donated a couple pounds – it’s the small things that just remind me that what Bethany is doing matters and has an effect on the lives surrounding them.