Eco Practicum Catskills just ended and we had a fantastic, and deeply moving experience. For the next few weeks, our blog will feature stories from alumni about the experiences that impacted them most. First up, Karina Almonte explains why the program moved her to pursue a career as a social worker in Sullivan County.
Describe an "ah-ha!" moment you had during the Practicum.
My “ah –ha” moment was when I began seriously considering working in Sullivan County and the Catskills area as an option after graduation.
I am hoping to return to the area to work as a caseworker, helping individuals and families to find and access services related to food, nutrition, health-care, housing, and energy needs.
What was the trigger?
The trigger for my realization came during the week we spent focusing on food, and issues of food access and food justice. That week we visited Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless, a not-for-profit that provides prepared meals and emergency food assistance. We visited the Office for Women, Infants & Children [WIC] at the Liberty Public Health Office, a federally funded program that helps low-income families with young children, through supplemental food assistance, nutrition counseling, and breastfeeding support. They are two very different organizations that share a common mission: to provide a food safety net to individuals and families.
When it came time to start final projects we were prompted to think about how we would address certain issues in this region. I kept thinking, “how would we address food access in this area?”
As I thought about my question one of our facilitators prompted us with the question; “how will we…” She was right, how will we…? And so my question became: How will we provide access to healthy food to those who have limited means? That was my trigger to want to return to the area to work.
What did you learn?
I learned just how much work goes into providing a safety net service to a vulnerable population. Reading about the work of human service organizations is one thing, but being able to meet with staff and talk about successes and failures, that is priceless. Meeting with the staff at these organizations was motivating. They are working hard, even in the face of setbacks, to serve the people in Sullivan County. I learned that I want to be a part of what they are doing.
How did it change what you had previously thought to be true?
This experience strengthened my support for those who work hard to provide assistance and advocacy to people in crisis. Our visits with staff proved what I knew to be true that their work is not easy but it is necessary, and it is work that I want to do.
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