I have been working with Project Horseshoe Farm (PHF) in Greensboro, AL for officially two weeks now. In these few weeks, I have had to learn more names than my first week in college, and I still find myself struggling to summarize my internship in more than 30 seconds to friends and family back home.
The work we do on a daily basis is vast, varied, frustrating, and restorative. To even begin describing what I do, I should start with the organization and the community it belongs to. Project Horseshoe Farm is a community-based nonprofit focused on improving the vitality of a community in Hale County, a community of about 15,800 people in rural Alabama. PHF’s on-site location is in Greensboro, AL, a town of 2,400 residents just 50 miles from Selma. The organization has developed many programs to achieve an ambitious mission. Every day of the year, the organization runs the Community Center Program, as a way to diminish feelings of social isolation and promote community cohesion among community members of all backgrounds, though it is largely the elderly and adults living with mental illness. At program, participants can choose to participate in support groups, walking clubs, arts and crafts, and cooking. On a daily basis, I am on the team that runs our Community Center Program. Because a central part of the mission is to serve vulnerable members of the community, we provide transportation for participants up to 20 miles away. This has been one of my favorite parts of the internship (although it is no more than a chauffeur) because we are able to connect people to a community on a daily basis that they may otherwise not have had.
Starting this Monday, we will begin our Summer Youth Program. This is a three-week program that will run in the afternoons. The goal is to provide a balance between leisure activities and academic enrichment. Summer is a time where low-income children suffer from an inability to access summer camps because of cost, so PHF serves to bridge this gap by providing a free program. For the past two weeks, I have been helping contact families, conduct outreach, and plan activities for the program. I am excited about this because I will get to interact with more of the youth in the community and take more responsibility in planning and preparing activities.
When we are not doing these programs, I am visiting my two different health partners. Health partners are pairings between fellows and vulnerable community members who may be suffering from mental or physical illness. The role of the fellows is to help coordinate their medicine, health care, set health goals, as well as be a means of social support. Because I am only here for eight weeks, I do not have health partners that have more serious health issues, however, I am partnered with individuals that could benefit from social interaction. Ms. Janet, one of my health partners, probably won’t remember my name because she is 94 years old with dementia. Nonetheless, she says she loves my company and I love her stories, so I am looking forward to the next six weeks we have. Randy, my other health partner, is blind. He has always had a wonderful relationship with his mother but she is now in hospice. Much of my role is to drive him to the nursing home so he can maintain that relationship with his mother and pique his curiosity with new podcasts and audiobooks.
What I have learned about this internship is that it extends well beyond the normal workday schedule. Every Wednesday, we play Frisbee with any community members and other fellows, Mondays we always have discussions with the director about the work we are doing, and Fridays we always have excursions that help us better understand the community we work in and the surrounding state. One interesting part about this internship is that it is led almost entirely by the HSF Fellows, all recent college graduated individuals. When the other intern and I arrived, the Fellows had only been there for two weeks, so they were still learning how to run an organization. In many ways, I think this has been an important experience for us to share because we are able to learn together, make mistakes together, and lead together. Moreover, participating in this internship has made me realize the immense responsibility this organization has because every day I can so vividly imagine the community if the organization you suddenly did not
Experiences like Ellie Hough’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez