May 10, 2007

Final thoughts on service

I found that volunteering at Simpson and Lyngblomsten was a positive experience. The most valuable aspect for me, from a selfish point of view was the opportunity to interact with multiple people that I would have otherwise likely never spoken with. Although the semester is coming to an end, I will continue to volunteer at both organizations. I have not yet had a chance to start the billiards program at Lyngblomsten, but I believe I will do this within the next two weeks. Also, I am looking forward very much to spending another night at Simpson. I must say that my first night there passed by very quickly considering it was fourteen hours long. I found that in addition to being positively received by the residents of Lyngblomsten and the men at Simpson, that the staff people at both organizations were very friendly and eager to help me. I am glad that I registered for a class with a service learning component, because if I had not I would have never had a chance to have such interesting experiences.

May 5, 2007

Concert at Lyngblomsten

The next activity I participated in at lyngblomsten was a concert put on by the Mary and Martha Choir. For the most part, my job consisted of asking residents if they wanted to attend the concert, and if they did I would bring them to the chapel. Again, many of the residents preferred to stay in their rooms. However several residents did desire to attend, and were cheerful and excited about the show. While I was bringing people up and down the elevators I had to remember to back them into the elevator so they would be facing the front. This was a technique described to me at the original orientation. During the concert the women of the choir sang mostly songs about chuch and god. They also sang several popular songs from decades past, including a bycicle built for two. During the concert I went to one of the hallways in the building and helped take down decorations honoring volunteers who had put in many hours at the organization. After the show was over I spent awhile talking with one woman in particular. She told me about her past, her time at the university of Minnesota, and her family. She told me that both or her parents had lived at Lyngblomsten, and told me of their deaths and when her sister died. I felt like the conversation I had with her was the most meaningful interaction I have had at Lyngblomsten.

May 4, 2007

Checkers at Lyngblomsten

Playing checkers at Lyngblomsten was probably the most challenging activity I have participated in so far at the organization. There were originally two men that I was scheduled to play with, however one of them did not attend. When I sat down I introduced myself to the man that I would be playing checkers with. In the beginning, and throughout the game I could not tell if he really wanted to be playing. This made me feel somewhat awkward, because I began to wonder if he was doing this for my benefit and would have preferred to watch tv. I didn't know what to do however, so I just kept playing and talking with him. During this game I had to excercise some patience, the man was somewhat slow to respond to me in conversation, and he took a great deal of time between his moves. During our game several staff people came over to talk to us, and said that this was the first time they had seen this man engaged in an activity for a long time. they seemed to think what was happening was quite positive and this made me feel better. Later his wife came and spoke with us briefly. She told us that they would soon be celebrating their sixty fifth wedding anniversary. I thought this was great, especially in light of contemporary marriage being quite devalued. His wife was also excited about his particiaption in the game, so in the end I felt that it had been a positive experience. We were not able to finish our game, as the table we were playing on was reserved for residents to eat lunch at a specific time. However I told him that I hoped we would be able to play again, he said he thought we should as well.

May 2, 2007

Waffle Wednesday

The next opportunity I had to work directly with many of the residents at Lyngblomsten was at a function called Waffle Wednesday. I began by preparing coffee and making batter with a woman who is a staff person at the organization. She said that Waffle Wednesday is always very busy and she was very happy to have an extra pair of hands to help her. She told me that this is a very popular event. Soon after we had completed the first of the waffles the residents began coming in. Again I found everyone to be very pleasant and kind. I smiled at the people when they came up to get the waffles, and nearly everyone smiled and spoke kindly to me. I felt like I was contributing positively to what seemed to be a very nice morning for many of the residents at Lyngblomsten. We kept putting out coffee and making waffles as the residents continued to come in. It was somewhat busy, but not overwhelming. The steady amount of work was a fun and exciting way of passing the time. After all of the residents had been served I ate one of the waffles myself. The waffle was great, and I could see why the event was so popular among the residents.

April 30, 2007

Snack and Yak

The first true opportunity I had to interact with the residents at the nursing home was when I attended the Snack and Yak function. I started by walking around one of the residential areas with a staff person and asking people if they wanted to attend. I found that the vast majority of the residents at Lyngblomsten seemed very tired and most declined the invitation to attend. One woman I encountered was very interesting. One of her eyes was very swollen, apparently she had fallen and hit her head on the tv when trying to change the channel. Her speech was very slow and deliberate as she explained the guilt she felt as a result of the accident. She stressed more than once that she felt she had been blamed for the accident. I told her that I was sure nobody blamed her for it and that she should not feel bad. Nonetheless she said that she would remain in her room during the activity. She did say that she hoped to see me again, and would likely attend activities in the future. I found that all of the residents I came into contact that first day were very glad to talk with volunteers. I found myself smiling almost constantly and feeling great about the smiles I was seeing on the faces of the people I was working with. When the function began I found myself sitting between two elderly women. They were both ver nice and our conversation was comfortable and natural. After we had been talking for awhile another woman came and sat down at the opposite end of the table. She had a bandage on her head and seemed confused. She asked me some questions that did not make much sense, and I tried my best to respond to her. The other two women I had been sitting with started making comments about the confused woman's condition. They seemed to have little tolerance for her. I found it very interesting that there seemed to be something of an elitism in this situation, where those with sharper minds seemed to place themselves above those experiencing memory loss.

April 27, 2007

Preparing the recognition at Lyngblomsten

After completing the orientation at Lyngblomsten began work on the first task I would undertake at the organization. The staff had been planning a recognition dinner and celebration for all of the volunteers at Lyngblomsten. The first thing I worked on was filling up balloons and tying them together for the celebration. I worked alongside two of the Lyngblomsten staff members. One woman I was working with told me that her daughter had been awarded a college scholarship for all of the time she had dedicated to Lyngblomsten. Both of the staff members were very kind and told me how much everyone at Lyngblomsten appreciated the help of the volunteers. After I had finished inflating and tying together the balloons I went off with some other people to begin preparing food. A small group and myself prepared one hundred fifty fruit cabobs. While I didn't get a chance to interact with any of the residents at the organization I did have a good time preparing the food. While doing this work I witnessed some debate as to how the final presentation would be delivered, and I tried to remain neutral. While preparing the balloons and the food I thought that it was interesting that I was preparing a celebration for other volunteers that work at Lyngblomsten, and I was even invited to attend the festivities but I was unable to go. Although my true work with the seniors who live at Lyngblomsten had not yet begun, I was excited at the prospect of my volunteering that was to come.

Lyngblomsten orientation

On April 27th I participated in an orientation for new volunteers at Lyngblomsten. A young mother was also attending the orientation and she had brought her children with her. The first part of the orientation consisted of learning the history, policies, and procedures at Lyngblomsten. I learned about the women who had started the organization, and the continuing mission of Lyngblomsten. Next I was led on a tour of the different areas of Lyngblomsten. I saw the chapel, the community room, and learned that different residential areas are designated as individual neighborhoods in the building. Some of these residential spaces are set up to cater to the specific needs of the residents living in them. For example, one area is designed to accomodate residents experiencing more severe memory loss. I also learned of the different activities that I would have the opportunity of becoming involved in. I was particularly excited to learn that the staff had been desiring to start a billiards program for quite some time and had not found anyone willing to get it off the ground. I hope that I will be able to help get this program started. After completing the orientation I felt very positive about the work I would soon be doing at the Lyngblomsten center.

April 26, 2007

First night at Simpson

My first night at the Simpson Housing was a great experience. Although there was a lot of downtime I found that everything I did was worthwhile. The first job that I did was working in the supply closet. Here I distributed basic toiletries and clothing to men at the shelter. Every time one of the men came to the closet I was supposed to mark their name on the sheet to ensure they only used this facility once a week. Or to tell them that they would have to come back another day if their name had already been marked. I was fairly lenient here. Shortly after it was time for dinner. The meal was great, there were cheeseburgers, potato salad, green salad, chips, brownies and ice cream. I heard joking among many of the men that this shelter allowed for the fattest hoboes in the state. One man I talked to during dinner had a fascinating story. He had only been homeless for one month, and had held jobs in como park for his entire life. He had only recently lost everything to gambling and cocaine. During the night I had a chance to talk to many other people. I found everyone there, with no exceptions (which was a bit of a surprise) to be extremely kind and cheerful. The breakfast at the shelter was also very good. I felt that speaking with these men was a very positive experience for me, and I believe that I also had a chance to tell some jokes with and have a good time with some of the men.

April 23, 2007

Orientation at Simpson Housing

My orientation at Simpson Housing Service was very educational. I learned the history and mission of the Simpson Housing Service. One thing that I liked about this organization is that in addition to providing an immediate solution to homelessness by providing me with a place to stay for the night, Simpson also has programs designed to help homeless men find long term solutions to their problems. There are savings programs available to the men, and there are also educational opportunities involving learning centered around finding/keeping jobs/housing. Another aspect of Simpson Housing that I liked is that unlike many shelters, Simpson does not require sobriety from its residents. This is good because many people on the street do not have the tools necessary for some people to fight off substance abuse. Many people who are homeless have a harder time resisting drugs and alcohol that can provide a temporary good feeling. During the orientation I learned about the procedures at Simpson, and the work that I would be doing while there. After the orientation was over I was excited to start my work at the shelter.

January 18, 2007

Community Learning Composition Section

For the most part I chose the community learning section of composition because it fit perfectly into my work and school schedule. I do however have a specific interest in community learning. When I was a senior in high school I took a class that had a strong focus on community service. I had the oppurtunity to work with low income children in northeast Minneapolis. This was an incredible learning experience for me and I feel that i grew a great deal as a result. Hopefully I will be able to come out of this class having had an equally valuable experience. I define service as taking time outside of work and school (one's own personal and free time) and using that time to help others.