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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.

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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10 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless

Part 1

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

As a child, I remember riding in the back of a friend’s parent’s car on a brisk day where our breath fogged up the windows. We were driving through the heart of the city in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As we were covered in goosebumps, we pulled up to a red light where we saw a woman with a cardboard sign. After reading the sign describing her situation, and her two kids, my friend’s dad proceeded to say “why can’t she just go get a job like the rest of us? There’s no excuse to be homeless.” We drove past the woman and didn’t give her a second glance. As I grew up in the more rural outskirts of the city, I tended to start to share a similar mentality. I would often think about how if I see “now hiring” signs in windows everywhere, why are there so many homeless people?

Photo Credit: Daniel Nelson

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How Our Front Porch Helps

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

Every person in the United States faces struggles on a daily basis. From running out gas, to losing a credit card; the human race struggles in every aspect of life. But what happens when a natural disaster hits and you lose everything you own and love? Would you be able to pick up and move on, know what to do, or be able to function soundly? I know in my personal life, I would not be able handle the most basic of everyday tasks. People are resilient and can handle so much, but sometimes they need help in this crisis period. I say this, because this is what I do in my internship: I help individuals who have lost everything due to a natural disaster.

Residents wade through floodwaters in Beaumont Place, Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters/Newscom

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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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Hurricane Harvey Hits Close to Home – Part 1

In this next blog, Kim, a friend of Our Front Porch who lives near Houston, Texas shares her experience of Hurricane Harvey and how it impacted her day-to-day life, her family and her community.

A home in Spring, TX during Hurricane Harvey. Photo Credit: David J. Phillip, AP.

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The Realities of Evacuating

Our Front Porch interviewed one of our supporters, Kat Kilpatrick, who had to evacuate for Hurricane Irma. For those of us who live in landlocked states, here is what the realities of evacuating look like. 

Kat Kilpatrick and her family.

Were you prepared to evacuate and what things were most important for you to bring with you?

We heard about Hurricane Irma arriving in a few days which gave us some time to decide our plan, pack and come to terms with the fact that there was a natural disaster on the way. I packed the essentials for my husband, myself and two small children. I packed clothing, diapers, snacks and our most important documents. I thought about our items at home and hoped they would be ok but most utmost concern was for our family, things can be replaced.

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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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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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When Disaster Strikes… on Vacation

Guest Blogger: Sheila Babyak

Vacations can be the most anticipated, fun-filled events of a lifetime. We spend all year deciding where to go, how to get there, what we’ll do, and budgeting our money to be sure it is a vacation of a lifetime! No one ever thinks that their vacation could be disrupted by some sort of an unexpected event or disaster. While we can’t plan for unknown disruptions or disasters there are things that we can do to prepare ourselves in the event a situation should arise.

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Where the fire started. Photo Credit: Sheila Babyak

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