Our FH Internship Experience

Posted on January 2, 2013
Fountain House interns Eva and MariaFountain House interns Eva and MariaWhen we first started our internship at Fountain House, it was all brand new to us. Looking back at it now, we can see how much we have learned during our time here and how much our understanding of both the clubhouse model and Fountain House has changed and deepened. Neither of us had ever worked in a clubhouse before, but we had taken an interest in the clubhouse model from hearing about it in our social work program and from visiting the clubhouse Fontänhuset in Stockholm and talking to members and staff there. The clubhouse seemed to have a different, perhaps a more egalitarian, approach to social work compared to many other organizations and work places.
But while the clubhouse model challenges conventional social work in many ways, it takes time to figure out what it is really all about and what the core values and goals of Fountain House are. In our discussions before starting our internships, our focus was on what units we were going to be assigned to and what units we thought might have the more interesting work tasks to partake in.
Once we started out in our separate units, we wondered how we were going to learn and complete the projects we were working on in the units. To a certain extent, we were thinking about Fountain House from the point of view of a more traditional work place, where how well you can perform your work tasks is solely up to you, or up to you and the other staff.
As we got more involved in our units and took part in the workday, we gradually learned that working at Fountain House is all about relationships and community-building. 
We got involved in working side by side with members, and through that work we built relationships with individuals, as well as the community at large. After having been at Fountain House for a while, it quickly seemed to us the most obvious model to work by - why should we not work side by side? Although learning how exactly to employ it daily has raised many interesting questions: how can we engage members; how do we draw boundaries; how do we balance deadlines while giving space for time and individual growth?
During our three months here we have partaken in several forums where these questions, and many more, have been discussed with members, staff, interns, and fellows. We are very grateful that during our internship we have had so much training and opportunities to reflect on why Fountain House works the way it does. We have been handed a lot of rich material about the history and philosophy of Fountain House and clubhouses in general. We have discussed best practices and had individual supervision weekly. Thank you for involving us and giving us so many (new) tools to work with. 
For us as future social workers, being at Fountain House gives us the opportunity to reflect over what social work can be and about ways of organizing social work without the usual boundaries and hierarchies. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect on yourself and how you relate to the people around you when you don´t have the “safety net” of offices or appointments and set schedules for how to do your work.
We have felt so well welcomed every day when coming in to Fountain House. It has been a great experience to be part of a community to which people are proud to belong and that means so much to so many people. Doing our internships here has been so much more than just taking part in a work place; it has given us the opportunity to experience a community and to be part of a whole movement. 
Finally we would like to extend our warmest gratitude towards each and every one of you. All of you, together, make this community possible. It seems that each time we say goodbye to someone in the house, someone says, “We will meet again.” On that note, thank you from the bottom of our hearts and see you soon!

Eva Smoczynski and Maria Hagglund
Erst Sk
öndal University College, Stockholm, Sweden

 

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