How to Succeed in a Community Development Internship Abroad in London

Oct 29, 2016 10:39:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Internship Site Supervisor Interview: Frances Shank from Origin Housing


Meet Frances, a site supervisor for CAPA London interns placed at Origin Housing. Frances has been working with CAPA interns since 2008. Below, she talks about her expectations, some of the projects interns are involved with and what a few new skills she's learned from CAPA interns in the past. 
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
FRANCES SHANK: Over the last 25 years, I have worked for inner city charities supporting local residents of all ages and abilities as they engage in projects. These projects included the Senior Youth Inclusion Programme that targeted young people at risk of offending and a men’s project called Plan C Men’s with the aim was to target older men who were not engaging in local services. I have also run women’s groups, youth groups, after school groups, older people’s projects and three volunteer projects. My primary aim in all of these projects has to make people feel socially included in their communities, to build people’s self- confidence, skill sets, education and training, promote health and well-being, combat isolation and generally improve people’s lives.
CW: Explain briefly what Origin Housing is all about, your mission and goals as a company.
FS: Origin Housing provides essential affordable housing as well as care and support services in north London and Hertfordshire with the aim of improving communities and the lives of customers. We’re committed to developing sustainable communities in challenging, high density areas. Origin is a skilled provider of mixed tenure and mixed-use development with a strong reputation for housing support and community development. The members of the group that became Origin Housing have over 100 years of experience between them. Our vision is great homes - places where people are proud to live. We believe in building stronger communities. Our values are customer focus, integrity, being one team, committed and adding value to lives.
CW: How long have you been working with CAPA interns and in what capacity? If you've found this to be a rewarding experience, how so?
FS: I have been working with CAPA interns since 2008. My first experience of working with CAPA interns was when I worked at Castlehaven Community Association. I was so impressed with the interns and CAPA that when I started working at Origin Housing, I immediately suggested Origin placing an intern.
All of the interns I have worked with have been bright, enthusiastic and have arrived at my door with a "can do" attitude. The interns I have worked with have had a variety of different roles all based around community engagement. The roles have included working on young people’s projects, with children under 5 and with older people. At Origin, the two CAPA intern roles have been as community development workers helping to engage residents and build stronger communities. All of the students I have worked with have been marvellous!
CW: CAPA students are required to go for an interview with their potential internship site. How can a student best prepare for an interview with Origin Housing? What should they expect when they arrive?
FS: My advice would be to look at Origin's website and Facebook page. Prior to the interview, do not be afraid to email me with any questions. Come to the interview with questions. Origin and I want you to feel comfortable and have the best experience possible. When you arrive at Origin Housing, you can expect a welcome and friendly reception. You will be introduced to all the staff and be shown around the office. Of course there will be the obligatory tea and biscuits.
CW: Walk us through a typical day in the life of a CAPA intern at Origin Housing. What are some of the other activities they may be involved in besides the day to day tasks? 
FS: There really is not a typical day at Origin Housing because each day is different. One day you could be completing admin tasks and creating publicity, the next day you could be speaking to residents and parents, planning a community event or carrying out an estate inspection. Because Origin Housing has several departments that deal with lots of different areas of the business, you will have the opportunity to experience lots of different roles. You could be asked to cover reception, answers calls, help deliver the cream tea club or an activity at one of our retirement schemes.
CW: What are your expectations of a CAPA intern? What personality traits, interests and skills would make a student the best fit for you organization?
FS: I am looking for interns who have a "can do" attitude who want to learn new skills and immerse themselves in the community and Origin. If Interns are interested in community development and helping Origin build stronger communities, then Origin will be a good fit for them.
CW: Learning on internship sites often goes both ways. Do you have an example of something you've learned from a CAPA intern?
FS: I have learned many IT short cuts from CAPA Interns which is great because computers and IT in general is not my strongest area. On a lighter side, one student taught me and a group of young people how to make s'mores on a camping trip.
CW: Tell us a story of one of the ways a CAPA intern has made a significant impact on the business.
FS: Our Spring 2015 CAPA intern has been invaluable in helping deliver Origins ‘Older People’s Strategy’ in combating isolation and loneliness amongst our residents aged 60+. She has promoted and delivered activities to older residents and helped increase the number of participants accessing services and reduced their feeling of isolation. Feedback from residents has been positive and they feel more socially included.
CW: Do you think study abroad experience is important?
FS: Yes I do think studying abroad is important because it gives students the opportunity to experience a different culture. Students are away from home and have to make decisions. During their internship, students can gain valuable knowledge and learn life long skills that can help them access further education and employment.

CW: Tell us a bit about the area surrounding Origin Housing.
FS: Origin Housing is in the heart of London. The area is lively and buzzing. The surrounding area has the British Library, St Pancras Station, St Pancras Church and is steeped in history. Our offices are a 10 minute walk to Oxford Street in the West End and Camden Market. There are a variety of restaurants to eat lunch at such as Nandos, Pizza Express, fish and chips, sushi, kebabs, Chinese, Mexican and more.  The nearest underground stations are Euston and Kings Cross.

Thanks Frances! 

Find out about the CAPA London program

Topics: London, England, Interviews, Internships Abroad