It started in high school.. I was making my confirmation and needed 10 hours of volunteer work. My mom knew the lady in charge of volunteering at UMass Hospital, so the long waitlist was waived, and I met Jody and was greeted on my first day by Corey saying, “The more the merrier!”
I dreaded starting- I had low expectations for my co-volunteers. And I had to make a commitment of going 2 hours every Wednesday afternoon for an entire year.
I ended up doing it for 3. I loved walking the halls of the hospital and wondering what the faces I saw were afraid of or excited about. A co-volunteer, Kaite, was the one to point out that hospitals are just where people go because they’re sick, it’s where they go to get better. So in between the flower deliveries, dropping off magazines, and doing very mundane clerical duties, were hilarious times like the man who when directed to put 3 IC on the flowers he was delivering, put “3 I see you,” and extra hours were spent in the cafeteria after our time was done eating greasy chicken tenders and getting to know eachother. I love the two guys I worked with at UMass and still am lucky enough, 7 years later, to call them my best friends.
Volunteering is something that I want to continue to do. I have considered a volunteer year in the past, but I chose not to pursue it once I got offered a real job; I had enough volunteer experience I said, I need some professional experience. It was the truth- I’ve grown a lot in my ‘real job.’ But I also sought out a new volunteer opportunity. I have been volunteering as a Long Term Care Ombudsman. I had one placement which I did not enjoy going to very much at all. And I finally spoke up when a conflict of interest arose. Instead of letting me off that easy, the program director asked if I’d want to do a small rest home of 14 residents, and it sounded great right away. I agreed and went on my first visit on Friday. I love the set up and the people know all about my role, but they apparently don’t have any complaints. I hope they begin to trust me and if there is something, to tell me so that it can be resolved. But I was obviously very happy with the switch.
I think connections are something I look for in any experience. I could take a year and go volunteer in some new city, or I could continue to learn more about the city I love to call home. For now, I’m staying in. But I hope to keep growing up.