Another week has wrapped up in my Summer Internship with the West Nashville Dream Center. It has easily been one of the most difficult weeks for me personally due to the conclusion of the Summer Is For Kids day camp the Dream Center has held since the beginning of June. I could never truly express the importance of all the stories and lessons I’ve learned along the way through this Summer Camp experience because each and every child has left such a lasting mark on me. As talked about in one of my previous blogs, the power of conversation and feeling valued has been one of the most important lessons I’ve learned through this Summer. Going into this Camp, I originally thought that I’d be the one mentoring and making an impact on these kids. Although I believe I was able to fill that role, it stunned me to discover that they have inspired me and taught me more than I could ever imagine. There are so many hilarious and amazing memories, such as one kid telling me he’s going to steal my girlfriend, the seemingly never ending requests for piggy back rides, but most importantly the everyday conversations which helped me get to know each kid on an individual level. Although this part of the internship is over, I’m still so excited for the events and memories to come with different opportunities provided by the Dream Center.
This last week with the West Nashville Dream Center has been one of the most influential and formative experiences of my summer internship. After assisting one of the Dream Center’s team member with the mobile food ministry for the entirety of June, this past week was the first time I had the opportunity to oversee and lead this program. Although seeming rather daunting at first, I was easily able to recall previous tips and instructions from the prior month to help run this ministry as smooth as possible. My biggest concern going into this process was experiencing something I wasn’t qualified to handle, such as an altercation between kids or adults while leading the ministry. What I quickly learned though, was that support from other volunteers present diminished these concerns. Even though no arguments or altercations ever arose, having others there to bounce ideas off of and divide the work truly revealed to me the power of volunteers to non profits. The support of volunteers not only makes completing projects more diligent and efficient, but also provides an opportunity for the volunteers to potentially share new ideas and make positive changes to the non profit or their process of completing work. I have also witnessed that the Dream Center creates a community not only for the people they serve, but for the volunteers who help serve them. Volunteers are vital members not only to the non profits they serve, but the community they help create.
The Third full week of interning with the West Nashville Dream Center has come to a close, and it’s safe to say I’m beginning to get settled into the schedule of work set before me. However, there are many goals I still have to better myself as a coworker and to improve my overall consistency. For Instance, I’m challenging myself to plan further ahead to balance work with other commitments for the summer, to be more transparent and effective with communication to all, and to continue to work diligently and help those I’m working with in anyway possible. This past week was relatively the same as the others, except I am gradually given bigger and more important responsibilities to complete. Although I was initially unsure of how effective I would be at taking charge for certain directives I was given, I soon discovered that I was able to complete more than I ever thought, including the impossible: controlling eager kids and keeping them away from mischief. This past week has been one of my favorites, because I’ve learned many important things that go into non-profit work. When you are ordered to do tasks, even those that seem almost minuscule in size, they go so much further than the surface level. They free up time for others above to complete more important tasks with out having to worry about completing the little things. As well, I learned just how important snap thinking and problem solving is, as more often than not, one small mistake can offset the entire schedule for a nonprofit, meaning that you must work around or find a way through this mistake to complete the original goal.
The Second week has rolled by working with the West Nashville Dream Center, bringing the opportunity to meet new people, work in new environments, and handle new responsibilities. I was able to work with several other members of the Dream Center to provide kids from the area we serve the opportunity to attend a Vacation Bible School Camp held at Cross point Church. The most rewarding part about this whole experience was seeing how easily the kids made friends and really embraced the bible lessons given every night. The kids were obviously eager to return for the games, but more importantly for the bible parables and lessons. Seeing their drive to serve and embrace others around them and the biblical topics taught everyday was truly one of the most incredible feelings I’ve experienced. This great feeling of satisfaction, however, came with a tremendous precursor that didn’t necessarily seem daunting on paper, but in practice I discovered quite the opposite: I was assigned to watch and keep track of 4 kids in a Camp full of hundreds of high energy, screaming children. Although the kids I had were for the most part easy to control, keeping track of them in this busy environment was very difficult. Through this I discovered that this Internship has provided opportunities and challenges which I have never been faced with before. Through these opportunities, I have learned so much more about myself and certain key communication skills to help people feel included and loved while also effectively guiding and giving directions.
As with with all new things, I had preconceived notions about what interning with the West Nashville Dream Center would be like and how this community would receive me. However, I quickly discovered that these notions I had were incorrect in the best way possible. To an outsiders point of view, west Nashville looks like a dangerous area stuck in a cycle of gentrification, making rent for those who live there increase drastically. Although the gentrification is true and is a problem for these people, they are some of the most hardworking and accepting group of men and women I have ever met. They work diligently to provide not only for themselves, but for their family, friends, neighbors and community as a whole. Looking ahead, this summer will be long and busy, but not in a bad way at all. There are so many different people to serve and listen to in a city that is changing so rapidly that they often feel left behind. I’ve already begun to learn so much about this community, but surprisingly, I’ve also learned so much about myself. The Dream Center has taught me so many lessons that I am sure to take into the upcoming years of my life, from college and beyond. I am gaining communication/organization skills and understanding the power of making others know that they belong, and the power of going out of your way to improve someone’s day, no matter how big or small the action.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton