Introducing Helena

[Helena Neufeld, 2016 summer intern] A bit of exposition before I get to how I came to intern at The Shalom Project:

I’m going to be a senior at Goshen College in Indiana in the fall – I’m majoring in English with minors in women’s studies and political studies. Goshen offers a summer program called SIP (Service Inquiry Program) which provides students with a scholarship for volunteering at a service organization.

I’ve been interested in this program for a while, although initially for its flashier possibilities  – many students use SIP for international opportunities. However, as I was preparing to spend a semester in Cambodia this last spring, I was more drawn to staying in my own community.

I’ve led a fairly insular, Manheim Township, suburban life in Lancaster, and while I do come home from Indiana for the summers, I am pretty exclusively focused on working. SIP allowed me more space to intentionally learn about and engage in Lancaster, instead of my usual full-time summer job.

I looked into several different nonprofits to work with, and after a fairly drawn-out process, came across The Shalom Project. While it wasn’t one my original ideas, it seemed like a great way to learn about lots of different organizations and initiatives which I normally wouldn’t come across.

I’ve been with Shalom for about a month now, and appreciate the variety and flexibility of what I do. I already feel a bit more aware of my surroundings in my home community, and it is very interesting to be with an organization just finishing its first year – there is a sense of possibility and, again, flexibility, which can be difficult to find in more developed and cemented programs.

There is also so much value in Shalom’s model, itself – taking these young adult, fresh-out-of-college years and spending them developing, in community, instead of immediately going from thing to thing. This isn’t to say that the experience isn’t valuable, of course, or not a career-building opportunity. Nevertheless, spending a year not focused on making money or getting a further degree, while living simply and volunteering, is definitely a departure from the pre-written straight line momentum that it is so easy to be pressured by as a recent graduate.

Focusing on service and self-development/care can be tinted as irresponsible or indulgent. Shalom avoids this by taking these things seriously – I’m excited to continue spending my summer working with an organization that promotes this growth, as well as seeking it for myself.