By Brendan McCann
’17-’18 Service Year
I don’t think a lot of people involved in service have encountered a person who does not want to be helped. After all if you are doing a food or clothing drive, most of the people you encounter are there because they want to receive aid. So if the extent of your volunteer work is oriented around small volunteer projects you probably have only seen the people looking for help. There may be a few experiences where an individual is too proud to take your help but these instance are probably few and far between.
If you go a step further though into the realm of social work you may experience this problem a lot more frequently. Say you work at a non-profit offering a specific service for people in the community, you will still get a lot of people coming into your door looking for aid. However, some people may not seem willing to take the steps they need in order to gain the full benefit of your organizations support. These limitations may come from time constraints, paperwork, or a variety of other reasons.
For me personally I had to recently fire an intern from my worksite. I work at a place called Hopeworks N’ Camden. The program serves young adults from 18-26 in the Camden/ Philly area. Anyone who wants to can come in and participate in our web design/ professional development training program. After completing the training the trainees are usually assigned a 6 month internship either at Hopeworks or with one of the various partners we have. My education background is computer science so being able to do this technology role is a real blessing. On top of that seeing so many people being able to make a positive impact in their lives is very encouraging.
Unfortunately not everyone is able to have the same level of change in their lives, at least not right away. Like I said I had to let an intern go last month. His job was to help prepare trainees train to give tours of Hopeworks. While this job may sound strange it is very important as all trainees at Hopeworks are expected to give a tour before they finish the program. Tours can consist of people looking to sign up for the program, businesses looking to partner with us, or potential donors. Beyond the impact that it has for our organization it also enables trainees the chance to learn how to network and communicate with others. If I’m being honest my intern did a great job with this training process. He had creative ideas of how to teach, was more than capable of doing his own tours, and was well liked among the other trainees. The biggest problem that he had was attendance.
Now Hopeworks takes on a trauma informed care approach to any trainee interaction that we have. Basically what this idea boils down to is that everyone has a history and this history is going to influence some of the decisions that they make. We try our best to learn about why a person makes certain choice that way we better try to make the changes that they need in their lives. From a practical standpoint I had to make sure that whenever my intern was struggling with attendance that I was not jumping to the conclusion that he did no care. We ended up having several conversations about how what changes needed to be made and how we could make the changes happen. However despite these conversations the situation did not improve by much. Although it was hard it seemed like letting him go was the only option we had left to us.
This decision was by no means an easy one to make as it was the first time I had to fire someone. Something that a fellow staff member shared with me was that hopefully this was going to be able to help him more in the long run. We learn more from failures than we do from successes.
At the end of the day I think my intern genuinely wanted to be able to help himself but was not able to make the need for communication as high of a priority as it needed to be. That being said I think most people do want to be able to help themselves it’s just a matter of prioritizing and realizing that certain things are going to be more or less helpful than others. I think it is important for all people to realize this, especially volunteers as it will leave a lot less resentment. Imagine if I came to the conclusion that my intern did not care about me or his job, that would leave me feeling insulted after hiring him and even more frustrated at the tasks not getting done. My only hope at this point is that after this experience my intern will be able to reevaluate his priorities going forward.