My name is Reneta and I am from Mumbai, India. I interned with SYC for about 15 months and it was nothing short of an adventure (although I tend to look at it as a life boot camp sometimes!). The internship gave me an opportunity to be part of all aspects of SYC’s life and mission in Whitley; from daily rhythms of prayer, schools work, youth and community work and everything else in between.

Some of my highlights include the following:

Living a value-focused life

From the get-go, it was clear to me that there are certain values in Shift’s culture. However, it took me a while to gradually grasp and put them into practice, as I understood that unless a value is put into practice, it remains just an idea. I enjoyed doing the Foundations Course which helped me to put more meaning and practical insight on my life as a Christian i.e. living with God, others, and most of all, myself.

Spiritual development

There were a good number of opportunities for this, such as team and community prayers, preparing devotions or journaling. I enjoyed all of them however the ‘Professional Integrated Journaling’ method was and is such a blessing as it helped me discover more of who I am, how I think, feel, see the world within and around me and, last but not the least, what is God speaking to me in all of it. I now meet with 2 of my friends once a month and we share our journal entries and pray for each other.

Schools Work

In my time as intern, I was helping to provide 1-2-1 support at JMA and later helped with a couple of clubs at a primary and secondary school. It was my first time interacting with children and young people in schools outside of India. I used to do some youth work through Queen’s University during my study, but it was mainly on campus. This experience added a different dynamic. I enjoyed building relationships with pupils and one of the kids at JMA left a lasting impact on me. It was a wonderful experience to organise the Whitley Logo Competition as well, which started off as a regular competition and then had to be adapted virtually, due to Covid-19.

Involvement in the local parish

When I came to Reading, I felt a desire to be part of a local parish, but I hadn’t imagined how it might look like. Through God’s grace and the very warm welcome I received at Christ the King Parish, I soon began helping with the First Holy Communion Program and the youth group. I thoroughly enjoyed doing anything and everything given to me in the parish and in turn I received a great amount of love, support and encouragement from father Pat and all the parishioners whom I met. Although not directly part of the internship, being part of a local parish was definitely worthwhile and gave me more chances to practice a mission-focused lifestyle. Another highlight of my time here was when through the generosity of some people, I went for a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France with others from Portsmouth Diocese!

Rest and travel

Both these things are such amazing gifts from God. Rest is such an integral part of our lives and (I thought) travelling to new places as a self-funded intern was only a distant dream. I fell sick a few times and my appetite suffered as well. Claire and Anika’s tips on how to look after myself proved to be very useful and helped me to improve my health and habits. The idea of working from a place of restfulness is something I will not forget: a rest means so much more than just ‘not working’!

Similarly, I never thought I’d be able to travel to 4 countries and visit my friends in Northern Ireland a few times during the intern year. Initially, I was overly cautious about my finances and wanted to hold onto every fundraised amount, but as time passed, I saw how wonderfully God provided both for my living and leisure. This, in turn, encouraged me to be free and pay it back in any way possible.

I faced a few challenges during my intern year: while doing schools work, with my living situation and of course, the Covid-19 pandemic led to some difficult circumstances as well. Throughout these situations, I was supported practically and spiritually by Claire, Anika, SYC trustees, members from my local parish and others from the community. Then of course, there were fun days, street parties, birthdays, kids club and more! And when I look back at all of it, only gratitude fills my mind.

Interning at SYC meant saying ‘yes’ to not only reaching out to young people and the community but also to myself. It has enabled my personal, professional, and spiritual development by giving me the freedom to be creative and be part of a team. I could celebrate, make mistakes, learn and discover a more authentic version of myself. It is not a Monday to Friday work – it is more a way of life than a role. It’s a fascinating blend that keeps you firmly on a ground and at the same time – lets you be free!

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