Making a Difference — One Woman at a Time

For many, success is measured by accomplishment. Sometimes that is measured by gaining access to higher authority. For others still, it is by acquiring a more lavish lifestyle or material goods. For me personally, I measure success through the accomplishments and empowerment of my clients. For most of my life, I think I always strived for some sense of achievement and perfection, which led to a lot of unrealistic expectations for myself. Furthermore, I think it contributed to a diminished sense of self-esteem when I did not reach these unrealistic expectations. When I began to work with those that were dealing with addiction and mental health issues, it led to a new sense of perspective for me. It helped me see that sometimes it takes baby steps to start making substantial life changes. It is those little victories that create empowerment, and beyond that, the possibilities are endless.

My internship experience has been absolutely invaluable, because it has exposed me to a demographic of women that I have never worked with until this point. At Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, I had personal interactions with low-income women of color living in Chicago’s South Side every single day. These interactions taught me about my own white privilege. They taught me about the importance of building trust and connections with clients. Most importantly, it reinforced my sense of purpose. I want to make a difference in the world and in the lives of others. Working in mental health and social work will allow me as a practitioner to help instill the stepping stones of progress in my clients so that they can begin to make changes in their own lives. I get to sit back and watch them reach their goals and build their own self-esteem. To me, THAT is real success. Making a real and lasting difference in the lives of others. My advice to other interns above all would be to keep an open mind. Sometimes an internship will be absolutely nothing like how you may have pictured it. However, if you keep an open mind and a good attitude, you open yourself up to opportunities that you otherwise would not have been exposed to.

In my internship, I displayed critical thinking and problem solving as a personal competency. When our organization had a shortage of free condoms due to budget cuts, I volunteered to come up with a solution to this problem. I reached out to one of Chicago’s largest gay bath houses, because I knew that they had a very large surplus of free condoms at their disposal. Although this is a somewhat unconventional solution, sure enough, the bathhouse offered to donate a box of 1000 free condoms, more than enough to last our organization well through the rest of the year.

I am so grateful for my experience as an intern at Chicago Women’s AIDS Project this summer and I can only hope that other interns have positive experiences such as mine that reinforce their sense of purpose.