This week’s blog is a guest post from Sala, a recent graduate from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management with a Master’s degree in International Development. Sala interned at REACH this past academic year and completed a research project on International Approaches to Ending Violence Against Women: A Comparative Study of Ghana and the United States.
I was so excited when I received the offer to join an organization committed to giving hope to survivors. Required by my Master of Arts program in Sustainable International Development, majoring in Gender Studies, I did a 24-credit internship at REACH Beyond Domestic Violence.
Starting my practicum, I joined colleagues and other professionals who play diverse roles in the same field in a 35-hour mandatory training. The training covered everything from (personal) self-care, safety planning with survivors, to the laws that contribute to the elimination of domestic violence and save survivors and families from further harm through various programs which are multi-lingual in nature. The training provided a great networking opportunity as there was a diverse background of participants and it was both interactive and practical, with best practices shared.
What made my practicum more beneficial was that I got into action after the training and wasn’t left as a spectator. I worked in the new REACH office which has an individual space for each intern to work during our tenure. I was fortunate to be assigned a task to work on REACH’s annual project under the supervision of Deborah Heimel. The Holiday Gift Program, which I personally describe as “life-saving” provided 250 families with what they wish to have as the year ends. Although it is one of the busiest and hectic times at REACH, it was a great experience to join the committed and welcoming staff and volunteers who came together to make this time of year a memorable one for the survivors they have worked with over the years through their programs. I was struck by the joy on people’s faces even though they have experienced pain and sadness.
Personally, interning in an all-involving environment like REACH was challenging because of the confidentiality that surrounds working with survivors of domestic violence, but rewarding because I gained hands-on experience working with people who have been through such painful experiences. I was given the opportunity to shadow at court and work with all departments whenever there was a need.
Moreover, my exposure to other supporting roles at REACH during my tenure motivated me to undertake a comparative study to assess the effectiveness of the approaches used by domestic violence organizations in Ghana and Massachusetts to reduce, if not eliminate, domestic violence and sexual assault existence. The results of the study revealed that domestic violence organizations remain the core point of contact for survivors, but the resources in both developed and developing countries remain inadequate to support survivors fully. Therefore, it is opportune for gender policies to reflect on research recommendations in such fields of study to step up the eliminating mechanisms adopted by international, state and community level institutions or organizations across the globe.
My experience also provided me with the practical aspect of the analytical theories being taught in class as well as exposure to an office environment to enable me to relate well to my future employers. Again, REACH has helped me to build more confidence in an environment with diverse people and boosted my knowledge about working with survivors of domestic violence. REACH’s role in my educational and professional journey is commendable and much appreciated.