Tiffany Lim '15
Employer: First Church Shelter in Harvard Square
Many students at Harvard are passionate about serving the local community and the Student Employment Office makes it easy to have jobs that allow them to do just that. Tiffany Lim, a senior living in Pforzheimer House, works on staff at First Church Homeless Shelter in Harvard Square. The shelter houses fourteen local individuals who are homeless for various reasons. The shelter provides a warm, safe space for them to rest, eat dinner, relax, and sleep until they can move into more permanent housing.
An average student staffer at First Church Shelter works one shift a week, coming in around 5pm and working for four hours. All of the student employees are paid through the Federal Work Study Program. An average shift consists of cleaning, cooking, and making the shelter “feel like a home.” Tiffany says that her favorite part of her job has been getting to know the residents of the shelter. “A lot of people have a false impression about the homeless community in Harvard Square...It’s been a really great experience for me to get to know the stories of these people and get to know them as real individuals.” According to Tiffany, the guests of the shelter, as well as the other staffers, have made working there a truly meaningful experience.
In comparing the First Church Shelter to other homeless shelters Tiffany has worked with, she notes the quiet and relaxed atmosphere of the First Church Shelter. The shelter only takes a limited number of individuals at a time and guests must be referred by an outside community member to obtain a spot, so the group really starts to feel like a family. She also notes the convenient location of the shelter, about halfway between the Quad and the Yard, makes it a particularly nice location for residents of Cabot, Currier, and Pfoho to work.
In terms of time management, Tiffany says that her job at the shelter has been very easy to accommodate into her schedule. “The way that the shelter sets up the shifts makes it very easy to balance with everything else,” she tells me. With only one four hour shift a week, a boss who is understanding of student scheduling, and a position that allows for studying on the job, Tiffany has had no problem juggling her job, academics, and extracurriculars, which include being captain of the golf team.
As a senior, Tiffany is already looking ahead. Next year, she will be teaching high school math in Connecticut and says that the skills she has learned through her position at the shelter will definitely be useful, particularly learning to work with a wide range of personalities people and making them feel safe and cared for. “A lot of it is dealing with people, dealing with conflicts. The biggest part about working here is being positive, wanting to be surrounded by people who need help. A lot of that you can find in schools, too.” Tiffany’s job at the shelter has provided her with invaluable job experience and skills that she will be using next year in her post-graduate job. She notes that the time management and interpersonal skills were particularly valuable to learn.
Overall, Tiffany says that working at First Church Homeless Shelter has been a great experience. “I’m lucky to be working somewhere like this.”