Words by Yan Qi Ong, a CAPA London alumna who interned abroad with Origin Housing during Fall semester 2015.
To be honest, I was flustered by the name of my internship company when I received my internship placement in London. ‘Origin Housing’ gave me the impression that it is a company that deals with properties. I am clueless about properties and I was concerned about how this internship could be useful to me. However, after doing some research online before I went to London, I found out that Origin not only deals with properties but they also aim to connect people by organising events and activities for the local community. They also provide volunteering opportunities. I found the aspect of “connecting people” similar to how community centers function in my home country, Singapore. In addition, I used to enjoy volunteer work, but I have lost touch with it due to school commitments. Thus, I saw my internship as a platform to learn more about community work in different countries as well as an opportunity to re-connect with my volunteering experience.
I tried to learn more about the company and what it does by looking through its website and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter before my interview. The actual interview was not as nerve-wrecking as I thought it would be. The people there were friendly and they made me feel welcomed. I was allocated to work with the Community Development team and I met my supervisor, Frances Shank, and the rest of the team for the first time on the interview day. I gave a short introduction about myself by mentioning where I come from, what I am doing in London and some of the volunteering experiences that I had before. I also had small talks with the team members individually, which helped me find out more about their roles in the company and understand how the company operates. The interview session was definitely a great head start for my internship.
There was always something new to learn at my internship site each day. I could be in the office doing data entry, writing letters, designing posters or newsletters or I could be out spending time with the residents or meeting volunteers. Spending time with the residents could include having cream tea sessions with them, going for theatre shows and even on field trips to places like Bath.
My internship experience definitely enriched the lessons that I had during my study abroad semester. I was studying Sociology of Social Polices and one of the topics being discussed was housing. Housing is one of the pillars of welfare. It is a huge concern as people need homes and housing creates jobs and wealth. My supervisor once said that the founder of Origin Housing, Father Basil Jellicoe, mentioned that “Housing is not enough”. It is not just about providing better housing conditions for the residents but also creating a better quality of life for the residents. Working with the Community Development team makes me feel even stronger about the words of Father Basil Jellicoe.
I saw for myself how the staff at Origin genuinely care for the residents and I had the privilege to play a part while I was with the team for my internship. In addition, following my supervisor around and see what she does for her job today serves as a great motivation for me to work in similar industry in the future. I learned that her job not only has the ability to improve the residents’ life but also change the volunteers’ life. The activities that she planned are opportunities for the residents to have a better quality of life. Meeting up with the volunteers and helping them find a suitable position in the organization allows them to make good use of their skills and gain valuable experience at the same time.
I have one memory from when I had an interview session with a young mother who wanted to volunteer and participate in Origin’s Time Bank program. Time banking allows individuals to get involved in their local community and it encourages an exchange of skills. A person can volunteer his or her time and skills to help others and the amount of time that he or she spent will get recorded as time credit. The person can exchange this time credit for services that he or she needs which are provided by other people. Services can range from teaching computer skills, art and crafts, gardening, yoga and many more. Some may think that a mother-to-be would be less capable as she might require more care or her mobility could be limited when she is pregnant. However, I remember the lady I met was really confident about being able to help out in the community activities that Origin Housing does despite being a mother-to-be. I was pleasantly surprised to see how keen she was to volunteer instead of just seeking help. Despite the fact that she was a mother-to-be, she was still passionate about contributing to the local community.
London has amazed me with its rich culture for the time that I was there. Through my work, study and living experience there, I managed to see London beyond its reputable theatre shows and museums. My internship with Origin Housing provided me with insights to the housing situation in London and interacting with the residents allowed me to understand the life of a local better. My experience in London is invaluable as I not only got to broaden my horizons but also developed into a better individual.
Thanks Yan Qi!