Interview with Susan Mertz, OFP 2020 Intern

Susan Mertz, DU International Disaster Psychology Intern

What was the most beneficial experience for you at OFP?

I think my most beneficial experience has been working with Maggie and Heather. A lot of times, people see problems and do nothing about them. The fact that OFP started in order to address a gap in services is amazing and a great learning experience. It’s actually really inspiring!

What surprised you about the recovery of home fire survivors?

What surprised me most was how few resources there really are for people recovering from house fires. Initially, I thought the Red Cross did a lot more to help out, but their assistance only last so long.

What are your next steps after graduation?

Hopefully, a job in Program Evaluation! I want to help design and monitor international programs that focus on mental health initiatives.

What was it like working at OFP?

I really enjoyed it! I like how welcoming everyone was and even though I was only there for a short time, I felt incredibly supported by everyone.

How has OFP helped you grow as a clinician? 

It has definitely exposed me to new populations. I had a lot of training and classroom knowledge about people surviving disasters, but I had never directly worked with the populations. Also, any experience interacting with and helping others is something that helps you grow as a clinician. Having a wide range of diverse clients really helps expand your knowledge as a clinician.

What was your biggest take away from this internship?

I think my biggest takeaway has been the importance of social work. Don’t get me wrong, I always thought it was important, but people in the field of psychology have a tendency to look down a bit on it. Why? Probably because they are jealous 😉  After working with amazing social workers, I can see that the skills social work brings to a situation are so incredibly important. I also got to learn a few of those skills, which will be great for my clients and own personal development for years to come!

What did you learn most from the clients at OFP?

From the clients at OFP, I learned a lot about resilience. Most of them suffered one of the worst things of their entire lives, and yet they still keep on keeping on. I think a lot of people could completely shutdown after a traumatic experience, and yet the OFP clients continually strive to better their lives and work towards recovery.

Interview with Nicole Dryanski, OFP 2019 – 2021 Intern

What was the most beneficial experience for you at OFP?

Nicole Dryanski, DU Masters of Social Work Intern

The most beneficial experience for me was having this field placement becoming an opportunity with so many roles and duties I took on as an intern. The experience itself helped me grow, especially being able to work with this particular population of home fire survivors and wanting to become more evolved in this work. Thus, I would like to thank Sheila Babyak for telling Maggie to call me back for an interview.

What surprised you about the recovery of home fire survivors? 

Even though everyone might be different, every survivor shares the same struggles and barriers to overcome.

What are your next steps after graduation?

To move to the city of Chicago and officially be a working member of society.

What was it like working at OFP? 

Through all of the madness, it was such a perfect joy. I loved working with Maggie and Heather; I was more excited for my internship days than school.

How has OFP helped you grow as a clinician? 

I don’t think I could thank OFP enough for how much they have helped me grow as a person, leader, and social worker. During my time at OFP, I was everything from a maintenance worker to a case manager. Overall, I was very fortunate that OFP allowed me to work on interpersonal, case management, leadership, and non-profit management skills.

What was your biggest take away from this internship? 

That this population is so overwhelmingly underserved and overlooked, and unfortunately, I don’t think people understand the impact a disaster can have on a family or individual, and the lack of services being provided to them.

What did you learn most from the clients at OFP?

That we all are pretty simple people, and we all want the same thing: shelter, connection, and security in our lives.

Favorite quote

“If Heather and I ever had a baby, it would be you!” – Maggie

This Work is Hard

Guest Blogger: Paxton Leibold, Our Front Porch 2017-2018 Intern

Hurricane Harvey. Photo Credit: Olivia Vanni/The Victoria Advocate/Associated Press

Coming into this internship, I did not know what to expect. I had little to no clinical experience, I had never worked with the ‘short term’ homeless population nor clients who had severe trauma, and I honestly did not know how to do case management, let alone effective case management. However, while being a part of this organization, I learned how to do all of this and so much more. I learned that trauma can manifest in completely different ways within the same disaster, and that people are the most resilient when something tragic happens to them. From clients that have anxiety and depression, to clients that just want to move on; they are all resilient and deserve help. Another thing that I learned is that I am so irritated with how our society is ran. These types of clients (short term homeless) get little to no assistance through resources through in communities; why you ask? Because these people are physically not living on the street; per the homeless requirement in Denver, so they do not meet the criteria for government aid.

How messed up is this?

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Sympathy is a Garbage Emotion

Guest Blogger: Taylar McCoy, Our Front Porch 2017-2018 Intern

While working at Our Front Porch I have been able to hone some really useful skills, but one thing seems to stick out the most. Our Front Porch has given me an outlet to truly understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. Some people see these words as synonyms, but they are quite different. There are four words that I would consider to be related, but distinguishable: pity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion. Sympathy and empathy tend to be the two ideas that are intertwined the most. I would argue that empathy includes a component of connection and emotional intelligence that only comes from practice.

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Hurricane Harvey Hits Close to Home – Part 2

Our good friend Kim, who lives near Houston, Texas talks more about volunteering with the recovery efforts and community resiliency.

Donations being collected in Dallas for Hurricane Harvey survivors. Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez, AP Photo

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Working in Long Term Disaster Recovery

Guest Blogger: Carla Williams, Our Front Porch Intern 2016-17

Moving to Colorado less than 5 months ago, was nothing short of my biggest life decision. I knew University of Denver was offering me a chance to be a part of an amazing program I couldn’t pass up. Within our program, we are required to partner with a local internship for field experience. That was when I encountered Our Front Porch.

From left to right, Carla, Heather and Sarah presenting Our Front Porch’s services at the Arapahoe County Resource Fair.

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Three Things I’ve Learned from Being Part of a Start Up

Guest Blogger: Sarah Stone, Our Front Porch Intern 2016-17

First of all, I can’t believe this internship is half over. I feel like just yesterday, I was completing orientation and getting the OFP 101. I took the time to reflect over the holiday break on the growth and development that I have made as well as Our Front Porch.

Scenes from a start up.

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Compassionately Listening

Listening with compassion sounds pretty straightforward, but it is often more challenging than you think. I have had lots of practice, especially when I’m working with disaster survivors, and I still have plenty of room for improvement. I have often gone back to this Dalai Lama quote as I think it so well describes how to truly be compassionate:

“Usually, our concept of compassion or love refers to the feeling of closeness we have with our friends and loved ones. Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong. Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other is not genuine compassion. To be genuine, compassion must be based on respect for the other, and on the realization that others have the right to be happy and overcome suffering, just as much as you. On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering, you develop a genuine sense of concern for them.”

~ The XIVth Dalai Lama

Heather responding to a disaster as part of the Red Cross Disaster Assistance Team.

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Mindful Eating While Stressed Out: Part 2

Here’s more from our guest blogger, Paige E. Butkus, Nourished to the Core, LLC – Holistic Nutritionist & Yoga Teacher, on how to stay healthy when dealing with stress.

Work on keeping a healthy gut flora.

In order to combat stress we need all of our defenses strong including our gut bacteria. The microscopic bacteria that live inside of our digestional tract help us with more than you may know. Scientists have labeled the stomach our “second brain” for a reason. As much as our mind influences our body, our gut influence our mind. When our healthy bacteria are out of whack:

  • Our immune system is compromised.
  • Our digestion is weakened.
  • Our mental state and mood is negatively affected.
  • Our energy levels are reduced.
  • Our oral health is affected
  • Our craving for unhealthy food increases.
  • Women’s vaginal health is affected.
drinkingwater

Image Credit: Creative Commons

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Mindful Eating While Stressed Out: Part 1

Guest Blogger: Paige E. Butkus, Nourished to the Core, LLC – Holistic Nutritionist & Yoga Teacher

Stress is a part of life and how we deal with it determines the quality of our life. One way of dealing with stress is to eat foods that comfort us such as pasta, pizza, ice cream, cookies, and the list goes on. Just reading these words might conjure up feelings of happiness as carbohydrate-rich foods have been shown to increase your feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. Food has a profound impact on our lives in a multitude of ways from reminding us of our childhood to distracting us from dealing with our problems. In order to combat stressful eating, prepare yourself with awareness and knowledge.

fruit&veggie

Image Credit: Creative Commons

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