Hi there! My name is Madalyn. I first began working at Optimism Place as a Frontline Crisis Counselor upon being hired as a Canada Summer Jobs student; an initiative funded through the government. This position has allowed me to be trained and work alongside other frontline staff and learn the varying ropes of this role!
For some context, I finished my Bachelor of Social Work degree at the University of Windsor in Spring of 2020 (Covid style). I completed my school student placement at a youth centre that supports homeless and at-risk youth. It was an invaluable experience and provided me with transferrable skills and knowledge. After finishing up with my undergrad experience, and with the current global pandemic situation, I was glad to find a summer employment opportunity that would allow me to gain new skills and knowledge, while still allowing me to transition out of my familiar ‘student’ role. Upon coming across OP, I was unfamiliar with the services offered but I quickly gained many insights into the agency. I have learned much valuable knowledge in a relatively short amount of time and have been, and continue to be, streeeeetched outside of my comfort zone. The OP staff team collectively have a wealth of knowledge and as a student/new staff, I could not help but learn a lot! A few ‘stretching’ tasks that this position has taught me to do include, completing assessments and intakes with women, working 1 to 1 with individuals and doing so through advocacy and collaboration with other professional supports/agencies. Working at OP has encouraged me to practise asking certain questions and to gather information from the ground up when speaking with women. The importance of doing so establishes what the appropriate supports are. I have further learned the significance of breaking down situations and conversations as it can help the asker to get a clearer picture of the situation. Asking curious questions is a good thing!
I have gained further awareness by working in an agency during the pandemic as it has allowed me to have an inside perspective of how agencies must pivot and adapt to the new and everchanging challenges. As an essential service, the pandemic has shaken up the day-to-day shelter life at OP, however, women and children as the priority remains paramount. The unprecedented times that we are all in calls for much adapting to ensure additional safety precautions are in place. For example, OP’s capacity to support women residentially is lower now than pre pandemic. This allows for woman and their children to have their own room while residing in shelter as per health and safety measures. Thankfully, in addition to our residential and outreach services, we have our crisis line support. Pandemic or not, the phone lines always allow us to practice safe social distancing measures!
I appreciate being able to have conversations with women that are about ‘whatever’ and are not directly related to their current circumstances. Rapport building is a critical part of service provision at OP as this basis of trust helps foster a positive overall experience for women. As folks can imagine, domestic violence is a very consuming and taxing situation to go through and talk about, so having some reprieve from this is necessary. OP encourages women to have meaningful daily activities that they can do as a form of self-care/self-prioritization. This has been a good reminder for myself as well. Whether you are experiencing a traumatic crisis or not, we all need some respite from life's challenges. What better time to start daily, intentional, and meaningful practices than during a global pandemic!
This short term, contract position became more than just a summer job opportunity and has taught me so much about the violence against women sector, which I am thankful for. I am glad that I get to continue to be a part of the empathetic, skilled, and essential support that OP provides women and their children with. It is a humbling experience to be involved in the lives of women who get connected to us. To be entrusted by them to be a safe ear when they otherwise may not have one, is a special and unique experience. The number of lives that Optimism Place touches is quite extraordinary and being able to play even a small part in that, is an honour.