Interning in the Time of COVID

by Abigail Chamblee

I began my internship with Samaritan Ministry in the middle of August, and in the middle of a global pandemic. I didn’t come in with many expectations as Covid was very much present at the time of my interview, and although I hoped it would be gone by now, I knew that it could still be causing us to work remotely.

Throughout my first two weeks of remote work, I have definitely had a mixture of emotions. I started with excitement and was grateful to be able to get to know Jennifer and the other staff members so well despite being on Zoom. To my surprise, being remote has not hampered these new relationships!

As the days went on, I began to feel a little disappointed as I started to learn what I would have been doing in person—all the participants I would have gotten to meet face to face, the casework I would have had a hand in, and the ability to visit all the SMGW sites. But now I see that I actually have many unique opportunities by starting remote. I am able to take part in many aspects of the organization beyond just casework. I have been able to meet people from all the sites by now, and not had to take a bus to do so! I now have been able to get more involved with the STRIVE course, which I probably would not have been able to do in “normal” times, and I still get to speak to participants when I help the STRIVE team with intake. I will also still be able to visit some of the offices and interact with participants there, even if masked at a 6 feet distance.

I now see that going forward, although there are still many unknowns, I will have a chance to learn so much about Samaritan Ministry and non-profits in general. I can see that I am still very much a part of the SMGW community, and I can still be of help and support to the organization and the participants despite the remote nature of the work. Hopefully by this time next year, I will have been able to see how the organization works in the time of a pandemic and in more “normal” times. If the past two weeks have been any indication, I know that either way, I will learn so much and be transformed by my time here!

by Sylvie Bowen-Bailey- NOVA Casework Intern

I started work at Samaritan Ministry (SMGW) on Monday, August 3. I was intrigued by this internship because of the opportunity to work closely with people. However, living in the COVID era has meant that my definition of “close” is constantly evolving and that jobs don’t always match their original descriptions. In the first month I was able to physically visit three of SMGW’s five offices and also to virtually meet other staff and even some participants. Yet most of my time has been spent staring at a screen, working independently from home.

This has challenged me to build a new understanding of what it means to work with others.  Much of what I’ve done is in preparation for when the NOVA office opens more fully. I’ve been updating our Service Agencies contact list for accuracy and to glean a sense of how COVID-19 has altered local services. Additionally, Lead Caseworker Jane Bishop and I think throughout the week about what information to provide to Participants who come by Thursday mornings for Limited Services. We research and share “hot tips” on topics such as bus schedule updates, getting counted in the census, and opioid overdoses in Arlington County.

So, while most of my time isn’t spent working “closely” with others, it is spent considering how to best take advantage of the time we have together, now and in the future. I’m still hopeful I will get a chance to know the faces of participants and staff without masks, but I’m trying to stay focused on the work I can do right now.

These past five months have taught us about the importance of patience amid calls for immediate change. We’ve learned the value of creativity in social connection and certainly how much we can never be truly certain of what’s coming next.

When I interviewed for this internship, I assumed that taking this job would meaning regularly working directly with others because I was under the illusion that our “normal” way of life would come back quickly; I couldn’t imagine a world in which it did not. And yet, here I am, unable to feel confident about what will happen next week or even imagine what things might be like in another five months. The one thing I feel sure about is that we will continue to keep grappling with these questions of how we can work together “closely” and effectively even when the physical distance between us is greater.