Picture it! Buffalo, Spring 2020. A 20-year-old Canisius College junior Deanna Garwol embarks on a glorious journey to set herself up for a life of success, joy, & fulfillment. For weeks, she researched for the perfect internship that would blaze a path for her to become a steward to her community. She had finally found the perfect match! And then… (*record scratch*) I guess you could say some things got in the way of her plan.

Hi there! My name is Deanna Garwol, and I am a senior Communication Studies & Sociology dual major with minors in Women & Gender Studies and Peace & Justice Studies interning at Family Promise of Western New York (FPWNY) for the Fall 2020 semester. FPWNY is a homeless shelter located in the City of Buffalo that caters specifically to families seeking emergency housing while they work to find their way back home. So, yes, the part of the plan that included finding a fulfilling internship that allowed me to be a steward to members of the Buffalo community worked out! But what didn’t, you might ask? Ah, the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Due to health & safety concerns, I am completing my internship remotely — which surely has its benefits and drawbacks. But, before I dive deeper into all of that, allow me to tell you a bit more about my roles and responsibilities. This semester, I am working in the areas of advocacy, education, & outreach. One thing that has been very interesting to me about this role is that Family Promise has never had an intern serving in these areas, so I had the opportunity to collaborate alongside the Executive Director, Lu Firestone, to build my position from the ground up to both suit my professional strengths, but also leave opportunities for me to grow — even while doing all of the work from home.

My major projects this semester are on FPWNY’s website, where I will be making updates to their educational Impacts of Homelessness tab, as well as creating a whole new tab for advocacy. In short, the purpose of these projects is to give members of the FPWNY community the digestible and accessible resources they need to be more educated on the realities of homelessness, as well as how they can be better advocates for those who are homeless. In addition to this, I will also be doing some work on their social media pages with the implementation of a new weekly series called “What Can I Do?” Wednesday that provides the FPWNY online community with one (1) action item to complete each week to be a better advocate for those who are homeless.

Thus far, I have had mixed emotions on starting my internship at a time like this. The benefits to being remote are that I can have more flexibility in determining my work schedule and (if I’m being honest) that I can do all of the work from the comfort of my couch. But, there are a lot of drawbacks, too. For one, being an intern while having the COVID-19 pandemic as a stressor on your shoulders is quite a tough feat to get through. But also, being remote doesn’t allow me the opportunity to interact with all of the office staff and the guests at Family Promise. In both my professional and personal lives, I value the relationships I am able to build with others more than anything. Being away from the place I am interning, of course, hinders the ability to foster those relationships in many ways.

Nonetheless, the work I am doing this semester is fulfilling — just as I had hoped for in my original plan. While I am learning now more than ever that life doesn’t always go according to your ideal plan (and I would almost argue that it rarely ever does), I am also learning so many lessons in resilience and finding joy and purpose — even when a bright future seems very distant. Looking ahead, I am very excited for what my time at Family Promise has in store for me. Here’s hoping for an experience filled with growth, positive change, & joy — both professionally and personally!

For more information about Family Promise of Western New York, please visit fpwny.org.