May 8, 2007

Alone this time

Today was my very first day alone! It was incredible and I really do not think any day will be able to top this one. I was beyond nervous as I walked into the building for the third time this month, because I knew that today was going to be my first day that I really got to interact with the children and get a good feel for what PSP was all about. The children moved from room to room and up and down the hallway all in unbelievable happiness. But their smiles broke my heart as I ran my eyes up and down their disease stricken bodies; bruises, hairless heads, and ragged clothes did not seem of any concern to them. Waiting for some direction for staff, Wendy turned the corner and informed me I would be playing with a little boy in room 316 down the hall and he was waiting for me. Having known room 316 was the one-on-one daycare room I nodded quickly and begin my trek down the hall, attempting to brush off her negative attitude at the same time. Just before the room I found myself having to take a second to gain the courage to turn the corner with a bright face and bubbly attitude.
Daniel was sitting up on the floor with his face buried in his hands, clearly upset about something. He looked to be about four or five years old, but very small for his age. Knocking lightly on the door to let him know I was there, I announced in a quiet, but cheerful voice that my name was Shannon and I was here to see if he wanted to play. Slowly lowering his hands down he turned his tear filled eyes towards mine. For a split second neither of us moved while his expression went from sadness, to confusion, and finally recognizing the signature blue t-shirts every volunteer is required to wear. After a few awkward attempts on my part to make him laugh, we both finally loosened up. The rest of my shift was spent running around the room, playing games, reading a book, and just talking with this little boy.
Daniel is an incredible little boy. He is so aware of the reasons for why he is at PSP and aware of his families situation but it nothing but happy and carefree. I never realized until today how much I could learn from such a young boy. I thought I was so aware of my surroundings, my hardships, and the hardships of people around me and have always felt I handle them well. But I was so wrong. There will always be something that surprises me in life, I just never thought such a surprise could come from such a young boy. I am so excited to go back next month and see Daniel again!

My first day

During my meeting and tour with Wendy, she had me watch a training video before deciding exactly where I wanted to work within PSP. The video was incredibly impactful, as it described PSP’s mission to house those in need and help them get back on the right track both morally and financially. People who benefited from PSP shared their real life struggles and stories before PSP and after the help of PSP. Along with sharing real stories, the video gave a briefing of the different areas in PSP, and the areas I would be working in. After watching it and getting an even better idea of the different volunteer opportunities I could choose from just reestablished my hope of working with children for my volunteer work.
My training day was very fun. Although I did not get to do many hands on activities with the children, I shadowed another volunteer about my age. She was also a student at the University of Minnesota and was volunteering at PSP just for fun and the experience. It was incredible to see a person with such genuine intentions and really gave me hope and aspired me to continue volunteering even if I am not in a service-learning class. During my shadow shift my job was simply to watch how the child care center was run and what its purpose is. It is a once a month thing, except for April where there are two sessions, which was lucky for me since I am getting such a late start! The purpose of the child care center is for parents to leave their children there while they are in their monthly financial planning meetings or counseling sessions. My job, as a child care helper, was simply to just be there with the paid staff and keep all the children entertained and safe.
Today was fun but I am excited to be on my own and really get to know all these children.

My first meeting

Yesterday was my meeting as People Serving People with Volunteer Services. My trip there was a bit stressful because I had to take the bus. Normally this was not an issue but it was to the middle of downtown Minneapolis, which made the trip a bit nerve wrecking. I was worried I wouldn’t get off at the right stop, or get lost, or not find the building right away. Thankfully this did not happen. I did miss my stop, but only by a few blocks so finding the building was not an issue. From the outside People Serving People looks like a normal, very new, multiple story apartment buildings, making the inside incredibly shocking. As I walked onto the property, there was an extreme shift in the feeling of the atmosphere I was in. As I walked to the site, along the streets near tall sky scrapers and business men, there was little to no diversity whatsoever. But as soon as I walked up to the door of People Serving People that soon changed. The entrance of the building was not a bright welcoming, but instead right through the first doors was a metal detector and locked gates. The gates were only unlocked from behind a desk and were only accessible if you had a pass and were checked by the rent-a-cop at the desk. Needless to say I was flabbergasted by this scene and really was unsure how I was to go about getting inside.
After having the guard call Wendy down to meet me, I was given a quick tour of the building and saw the places where I hoped to be working. The meeting went really well and I was placed as a Child Care Helper until summer and then would move into Children’s activities director. I left PSP that day having a better understanding of what they are all about and a new starting date!

A new..but late start

I finally made some progress, unfortunately there’s almost no time left. A few weeks ago, after my last entries, I sent in a volunteer application for People Serving People. I was not quite sure what PSP did or was all about but I had no choices left. I received an email from the Volunteer Services director about three days later, letting me know my application was accepted and I should contact her when I get the chance. Unfortunately I did not get the email until late on a Friday night so had no choice but to give her a call the next week when I got the chance. Over the weekend, I took time to look through the different areas I could work in as a volunteer at People Serving People on their website. After going through nearly 15 different job descriptions in various areas I narrowed my choices down to three: tutor, child care helper, and children’s activities director. After trying to work with Children’s Hospital earlier this semester, I decided it was best to stick with my original hope of working with children.
The following week I contacted Wendy, the volunteer services director, and set up a time to meet with her and take a quick tour of the building. Of course with my luck our schedules did not match well and were not able to meet until the next week. But she said in that time I should go through the website and really get a feel for what People Serving People is all about. Needless to say, I have done as she said and am not looking forward to finally getting started.

April 11, 2007

And again...

As soon as things were beginning to look up again, I once again was completely let down. It is April 10th, there are four weeks left in the semester, and I still have yet to log any hours. This is ridiculous! Needless to say I did not get a call from Julie that Monday or the days to follow. By the end of that week I was really beginning to worry I would not find an organization to work with at all, so I contacted Monica once again. In my email I expressed my extreme distress over the lack of organization of both the Children’s Hospital and Lynbloomsten, as well as my deep concern for not having any hours thus far. She diligently emailed me back explaining her remorse for the situation and said she would contact Lynbloomsten on Monday to see what is going on, and look into other organizations I could work with. And after getting some information she would get into contact with me that same day or as soon as possible after that.
I did not hear from her on Monday. So the next day at my research paper conference with my instructor Zach Pierson and he said that if I still had not heard from Monica by the end of the week to let him know. I did not hear from her. So yesterday, Monday April 9th, I emailed Zach. And thankfully today he informed me he emailed Monica for me and would see where things were at.
While it is nice to have a little help from Zach and of course I am sure Monica is attempting to help me as well, I am very concerned for my grade. I am so nervous that the lack of organization of the two community organizations I have applied for and trained in with, will affect my grade at the end of the semester. Even if I do get started with an organization in the next week there is no way I will be able to log the hours I am supposed to have, or have much of anything to say in my final paper and presentation.
This is beyond frustrating…

Not so much...

I was told after filling out the paper work after the training session that I would be contacted by Julie if not by Friday afternoon I would definitely hear from her the following week. By weighing my past luck with organizations one can imagine what happened next. And that was…well nothing! I did not get a call from Julie the next day or the following week over Spring Break, or the first half of the week after Spring Break. Finally after waiting close to two week without hearing anything I decided to take matters into my own hands and call Julie to see where things were at.
My first attempt failed miserably when Julie was not to be in her office until the following day. So the next day I called again and finally got into contact with Julie. After numerous apologies for not contacting me earlier and more “it’s ok? on my end, I explained to her my situation. I had not logged any hours, I needed to begin as soon as possible to have any chance of completely the number of hours we need for the service learning requirement, and I was willing to work in any areas they needed a hand in. She told me she would definitely be able to accommodate to this and place me in a number of areas in the home where they needed help, as well as set me up with a “buddy? or a resident I would spend time with every week. So excited I thanked her a bunch and she told me she would set things up in the next couple days and call me to set up a meeting for that coming Monday. Things were again beginning to look up…even though I had to scrunch a lot more hours than just 2-3 every week, but at least I had a place to do that!

A little good luck?

Let’s rewind back to before Spring Break when things were looking up for once after not hearing back from the Children’s Hospital still. I was contacted about a week before Spring Break was to start by Monica Sims, the head of the CCLC, concerned about my lack of hours I have logged so far. These were viable concerns, being that I had no hours logged yet. She listed off some options of different community organizations I could start working with as soon as possible, one of which happened to be Lynbloomsten. Lynbloomsten is a nursing home in St. Paul and was conveniently an organization I was actually interested in. I immediately contacted her back expressing this interest and she put me in contact with the Volunteer Services Coordinator at Lynbloomsten just days later.
Julie, the Volunteer Services Coordinator, worked with me to get me into the earliest training session, which conveniently was that coming Thursday and my schedule was open as well. I went to the training session happy I was finally getting somewhere, but upset that I was missing another Grey’s Anatomy for another training session. The training was a joke. We learned about “Wheel Chair Educate? and “The History of Lynbloomsten.? While I am sure some of the stuff we learned was important to them and to the safety of the residents, but to me…it was all repetitive and boring.
The training session may have been relatively ridiculous but I got it done and I was feeling ready and excited to get started working at the home.

March 5, 2007

Time for Plan B

So it was not until earlier this week that I finally gathered all the items I need to submit my application to begin my work with the Children's Hospital, so after thinking about it for a while I have decided I should probably see if I cant switch to a different organization instead. Only because I have heard that several of my classmates who have applied have not even heard back from the volunteer office or have been denied. Being that we are already half way through the semester and I still have yet to log any volunteer hours, I think it is time for plan B.
My hope is to get ahold of Monica at the CCLC and see if I cant start work with the nursing home organization possiblity. I think this kind of work with suit me well also because I can relate well with people of all ages, and I think it would be beyond depressing to live in a nursing home..alone..and have nothing to do but just sit and wait to die. :) I just think it would be nice to make someone's day a little brighter every week by stopping by and chatting it up with him or her. One of the main reasons I would like to work in a nursing home for my volunteer work is because I enjoy talking to people older than me and finding out things about their lives. See how they differ from mine where most of my development years have been and are in the 21st century.
We will have to see where all of that ends up though. Hopefully it works out otherwise I am most likely screwed!

Still No Service

I still have not gathered all of the items I must turn in with my application to volunteer at Children's Hospital...hopefully this process is worth my while!
Since I really have nothing to say about experiences I have had thus far with my organization I figured in this entry I would just state my response to the 7-up or w/e video we watched in class the other day. First of all, those little english accented children are soooo cute! But I was actually very surprised by the differences between each of the children from different areas and schools. Although today no school is specifically alike in how, what, and who they teach, I did not imagine it would be so derastic even back then. By now I am guessing this children in the video are somewhere near their 50s and I cannot wait to watch them grow up and see where they end up as we continue viewing the various documentaries into their lives.
What was most shocking for me what when the young boy up for adoption was asked if he planned on attending a university after gradating from high school and from what I remember he did not even plan on making it through high school. But rather to go until he was 15 or so and then find a job right away and live on his own. I also recall him not even know what a University is. While if i think about it this type of situation should not be all that surprising because he is in the life he is, going to a University was probably never talked about with him and is only done by children with incredible drive to continue. And even then I cannot imagine how difficult it would be.
It will be interesting to see where everyone ends up in their future.

February 16, 2007

Children's Orientation

I am finally done with my application process, which means I just attended the volunteer orientation meeting, and I am ready to begin. After I mail in my application and get an interview of course! The orientation was boring to say the least. I literally was having a hard time staying awake the whole time, thankfully they had refreshments and food to keep me busy. The orientation was just like any other job training session of the sort, we went over codes and conduct, behavior, scenarios, etc. I did not find a lot of it all that interesting, except for the panel session of the orientation. The panel session was when four different volunteers, doing things we will be doing, came in and talked about their first day, challenges, high points, and just what volunteering at Children’s is like on the whole. Although their challenges they mentioned made me very nervous of the situations I might have to handle, overall they build up my anticipation to get started even more.
I think after talking to all the volunteers and going through the orientation the thing I am most nervous about, at this point, is knowing my boundaries. The stressed the idea that people in the red schmocks (the volunteers) are not there to discipline. Which I am perfectly fine with because I really dislike conflict, but I am playing what a smaller child and he or she hits me, or pulls my hair or something, what am I to do? Is telling them to not hit or pull disciplining? Am I really supposed to run to a nurse and say “that little boy hit me?? I mean seriously, I am 18, I have a younger sibiling, I babysit all the time, and I am familiar with this kind of situation but not one that I am not allowed to discipline in. Do I just let this kid hit me and keep playing my game or do I tell him that’s not ok?
Oh the questions I have. Clearly I should have asked these during orientation, but I suppose I will just go with my best instinct. I will probably just let it slide unless this kid is literally beating me to bruises…then I will take action. And by “take action? I mean I will go find a nurse!

CCLC orientation

So today I went to the CCLC orientation meeting. For myself, I found it rather boring and very uninteresting only because last semester I took a course called Leadership at the University, which covered much of the information, we learned at the orientation. Leadership at the University was the most amazing class ever, because we learned about all the factors of diversity in the work place and how to handle those differences. This was all in addition to learning detailed ways of handling a conflict, setting values, being a good leader and follower, etc, etc. Upon entering the orientation I was not exactly sure what to expect, but what I was thinking was this was going to be wayy too long!
Although I am sure the social change model, scenario practice, planting the root, and the community involvement activities will help in my volunteering experience, I cannot say for sure just yet. The one exercise I found to be of asset was the “planting the root? or something like that exercise. We were told to draw a tree, the roots being the cause of poverty and the branches being the outcome of poverty. As a young woman, who grew up in an upper middle class suburb, the idea of poverty is a shocking thought. Sad but true… As well as the root exercise I really enjoyed the “defining your neighbor? exercise, where you would define your neighbor by class, gender, age, race, religion, ethnic background, etc. without learning of these characteristics first. This was interesting because it really taught me that I should never just assume. There is always something I do not know about a person and it is not fair to judge before that time.
I have yet to start my work with the Children’s hospital of Minnesota. On the bright side I do have my application finished and I will be attending the orientation meeting this following week. I definitely look forward to starting my work; it all should be very interesting.

February 7, 2007

Another Service Experience

I am still in the process of applying to be apart of the volunteer crew at the children’s hospital, but have hopes to be finished in the next few weeks! I am really getting excited to work with this organization because I love children and am very familiar with the feel of a hospital. My mother is a cardiac nurse specialist with Mercy/Unity Allina Hospitals and I frequently visit her work and go along with her on her rounds to patients. Although I am not looking to get into the medical field, I am excited to get a small taste of it. Volunteering or working in a hospital has been something I have wanted to do for a while now but just never had the knowledge of how or the time. I see this experience as a great way to get my into the mind set of weekly volunteering hours, which I plan on keeping in my schedule into the summer and hopefully my years to follow here at the U of M.
Although have not had any experience volunteering a hospital setting for a long period of time, specifically with children, my nerves are really not too bad. I have worked with children several times in my volunteer experiences, and one specific trip showed me how easy it is to make a connection with a child years younger and vastly different. In the summer of 2003, I traveled with my church to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota on a mission trip. There we spent half our week painting homes of elderly living on the reservation and the other half providing a day care for kids of all ages on the reservation. It was at the day care that I met Chauncy, a 4 year old boy with an indescribable amount of energy and incredible personality. Despite the 11 year age difference Chauncy taught me more about just having fun and making your own fun under the circumstances you are given or put into. Life does not always have to be hard or so serious, and despite what ever troubles I may be concerned with this little boy taught me fun and laughs are more important.

February 5, 2007

Why Children's Hospital

Since elementary school I have always been very involved in a number of activities, specifically including activities that were centered on community service in the area. My junior and senior year of high school I was a member of National Honor society, where each member was required to complete at least 40 hours of community service in and out of the school per semester. Another organization I was apart of that was a big part of my life was a program called “Summer Stretch? at my church, St. Joseph the Worker. This program focused on giving back but having fun too, so once a week each group would go to different sites in the morning for 4 hours and after lunch the whole program would do a fun activity such as water parks, Valley Fair, blowing, or the Mall of America. Some of the sites we went to were different homeless shelters, food shelves, hospitals, nursing homes, battered women shelters, daycares, foster homes, and etc. I was a member and leader of this program from 6th grade through 12th grade. In all, I am very familiar with community organizations and volunteering, and was looking forward to the service learning aspect of English Composition 1016.
When going through the list of which organization I was to choose from for this project, I was very unsure of which path I wanted to take. I was really interested in tutoring kids or adults, but in the past I always wanted to volunteer at a hospital, either with children or adults. Through my process of choosing I decided to just go with the organization that worked best with my schedule, and one I could have the option of being involved with beyond just this course. I chose the children’s hospital—although I am still in the application process, I am really looking forward to the hours I will spend there with the kids and just helping in every way. This organization will also be easy to stay with into the summer and next year because it is so close to my home.

January 22, 2007

Community Learning and Service

Scanning the long list of English Compostion classes I had the option of taking, all I worrying about was fiiting the class in my schedule. As I came across EngC 1016 and found it conveniently fit and quickly clicked "add". To be perfectly honest in my frantic state I did not take the time to look over the course description and was slightly confused by the informational email I recieved from my instructor days later informing me of the "service learning requirement" 1016 had. Although quite surprised, I did find myself fairly excited after working through my confusing.
All through junior high and high school I was very involved with various community projects through church, National Honor Society, and several other organizations. I enjoy working with others people for a cause, knowing I can make a difference in several forms. Defined by myself service is taking any amount of time from one's day to aid, teach, help, support, or spend time with any one person in need.
Although I was not initatially aware of the service learning component, I am very excited to see what this semester brings in the class, both acedemically and through my service organization!