During the Fall 2017 Semester, I was an intern at the Hays Caldwell Women’s Center. I worked with the Primary Prevention team as one of the education interns. The Hays Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) was founded in 1978 by a group of women who came together in order to provide a place for women’s personal growth. It was incorporated as a non-profit by Texas in 1978 and since then has become a shelter for victims of abuse, a counselling center, a children’s advocacy center, and a resource center. The Hays Caldwell Women’s Center aims to serve all victims of abuse, regardless of gender identity, and has also become a children’s advocacy center. This means that when children are the victims of abuse, they may seek help with the HCWC in order to prevent the secondary trauma of reliving their abuse multiple times. In addition to providing direct services to victims of abuse, HCWC includes preventing sexual assault, dating violence and domestic violence in their mission statement. HCWC is able to pursue this part of their mission through the Primary Prevention team, which enacts the principle that, in order to decrease the occurrences of abuse, it is important to educate communities about the causes of abuse, as well as what healthy behaviors look like.
As a primary prevention intern, I was able to complete several tasks which allowed me to grow as an advocate and prevention educator. One of the most rewarding experiences I had was the opportunity to sit in on various groups that focused on educating teenagers about healthy relationships, among other topics. These groups allowed me to learn extremely valuable skills. I was able to observe how prevention educators navigate difficult conversations with various populations. This is an extremely important ability, because it affects how heavy topics are dealt with and enabled me to enhance my communication skills. Some of the topics covered had the potential to lead to tension and disagreements; however, the groups we dealt with were able to prevent escalation by setting respectful boundaries. This led to productive discussions and honest conversations among the group members.
I was also able to begin understanding the ways in which stakeholder relationships are maintained. This gave me the ability to learn how to nurture relationships with different communities and people. I was able to do this by attending different meetings and events in which the HCWC took part . Some of the meetings I attended were hosted by various local government organizations. This allowed me to see how local government and non-profit organizations are able to work together in order to achieve a common goal.
One of the projects I took on this semester was the opportunity to facilitate a session on my own. I was able to choose my topic, research the best way to foster a discussion, and put together the presentation. This was a very important step for me , because it allowed me to transition from shadowing someone to educating people. It was also a very challenging experience. This is because I had to be extremely selective about the kind of information I was presenting. I also had to be careful about the ways in which my presentation could be received by my audience. Nevertheless, it was an incredibly rewarding experience that allowed me to gain first-hand experience about what primary prevention looks like from start to finish.
During my internship, I was able to witness the importance of cultural awareness. This is because, as a small non-profit, HCWC relies heavily on building positive relationships with the local communities. Further, a large number of the issues discussed in Primary Prevention led back to the process of enculturation and cultural norms. Issues like domestic abuse and sexual assault can become normalized for cultures and, because of this, it becomes increasingly difficult to address them. However, by building strong relationships with the communities we serve, we are able to create a trust that allows us to create an awareness about social issues.