Volunteer Voice – Kaitlin

Kaitlin Duracher worked in our Representative Payee Services department as a temporary hire from June 30, 2021 to August 27, 2021. When she returned to school, she decided to continue in a volunteer capacity because she enjoyed working with the team so much. Below is an edited except from a recent interview with Kaitlin about her experience. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, visit our Volunteer page for details.

Why did you initially accept this job?

I initially accepted this job because I knew the work Helping Hands Hawai‘i was doing for their community was noble and admirable.

Since I was a freshman in high school, I knew I wanted to make a difference and help children. I graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s in Family Sciences and Human Development with a concentration in Child Advocacy. When I moved from New Jersey to Hawaii three years ago, I had a difficult time finding open positions in my field. I worked as a skills trainer at Roosevelt High School where I worked with special needs students, however, the COVID pandemic changed many aspects of my life, like most of the nation. I had to find another job and that is when I resorted to applying for jobs through a temp agency. My recruiter found a Program Assistant position for the Representative Payee Services Department at Helping Hands Hawai‘i and believed I would be a great fit.

I immediately said yes, once I read: “Representative Payee Services helps individuals with serious mental illness to manage their money and benefits… provide assistance with the SSI/SSDI application process, budgeting and money management education, and assistance in financial management.”

This spoke to me because people who have mental health disabilities are looked down upon by society and are labeled as ”abnormal, weird, and crazy.” It is an overall very marginalized group. They deserve services just like any other group of people, and I wanted to be a part of that. During the pandemic many people were struggling to make ends meet and this department can aid those who are not so welcome, seen, and heard in society by providing services to benefit their financial futures. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

What did you do within the Rep Payee department?

My tasks included answering the phone, dictating messages, recording voicemail messages for my colleagues, filing, sorting the mail and receipts, basically anything I was told to do, I did it! When Lori, Carol, or Paul asked me to do something, I would make sure it got done in a timely and efficient manner. Many people might think that this type of work is not useful, but they would be mistaken. Even if you are not on the front lines of making change, you can still make a difference by helping your team and making their jobs easier, making my job perfect.

What were some things you learned while working there?

I learned that the application process for SSI and SSDI is very thorough and in-depth. Lori always amazed me at how much she could handle in a single day. She had to reply to our emails, return a multitude of phone calls, and I am sure many more tasks. I think the human services field is always tricky and no matter what, you have your good days and your bad days. But at the end of the day, it is the people who you work with that can make the job worth it, and that’s the most important aspect of the job that I took with me. I enjoyed every single person I got to work with and that is the reason I am returning as a volunteer.

What are you studying in school? Are your studies related to the work you did in Rep Payee?

I am studying Child Advocacy as a graduate student at the University I attended for my undergraduate degree, so it is nice to be back. I will be communicating with people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, etc., but what I am studying does not have anything to do with Social Security or financials. I guess you could say there is a financial aspect because we talk about children and families who live in poverty, the type of families that are also a marginalized group of people, just like the mental health community.

What influenced you to continue as a volunteer?

I honestly missed the people I worked with and being a volunteer would look great on my resume for after I graduate. I want to graduate and be able to pursue my career goal, and I think having “Volunteer at Helping Hands Hawai‘i” would really go a long way.

Would you recommend a friend to volunteer at this organization?

I would recommend a friend to volunteer with Helping Hands Hawai‘i, if I knew they had good interpersonal skills, patience, sympathy, respect, and understanding for the type of clients you serve. I would recommend they volunteer because Helping Hands Hawai‘i helps those who have a hard time getting support from others, and without this organization, many people might be homeless.

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