April 30, 2007

im done coming up with creative titles

The last two times i've volunteered here it has been absolutely gorgeous out, so it kind of sucked being stuck in a really cold basement putting packaging meals, but I really didn't mind it that much since it was only for a couple of hours. Also, one of the cooks keeps making really amazing pasta for all of the volunteers so that has been really nice. It's hard to write anything new about my actually activity there since I pretty much do the exact same thing everytime, so I'll answer a question that someone asked me in class when were preparing for our presentations. They asked me if I actually feel like I am making a difference when I am just packing up food--which is a perfectly legitamate question seeing as I never get to see any of the people we actually delieve to. It's really hard to answer because I know I am helping people (even though it is just indirectly) but it's still hard to do without getting that personal touch. One thing that really helps me feel like the work I'm doing is worthwhile is just riding the bus to the orginzation (this is pretty much the basis to my third paper). This is because I get to see the true composition of the community I am helping. What I really like about riding it is how much everyone is different from me and being out of my normal sheltered environment. The bus is commonly populated with african americans, somalians, homeless, teen mothers, people with disabilities, etc. and you really attain a new perspective from being surrounded by so much diversity. So, even though I may not get to see the clients, I still feel like I have some idea of who I'm helping.

April 16, 2007

Flaw #2

Flaw #2 : serious inattention to detail. And I mean serious. Example number one: I will be flipping through a patients chart and one of the pieces of information I'm supposed to find is the person's race. So I'm looking through patient visits, and on one visit the patient will be listed as an black female, on the next she will be white, and the next she'll go back to being black. Strange how that happens huh? Example number 2: Once again flipping through visits, and I come accross someone the doctor describes as an 5-year-old boy. That's perfectly normal...until I come across another one of the same patients visits where there listed as a girl! I mean really, is it that tough to get down the right gender? It really makes me wonder how much attention the physician is giving their client and how much they actually value their health.
Now, that I've made myself sound very cynical about the health care system, let me take the time to say that not every doctor is like that. There are many who document there visits very thoroughly and don't leave out any information. It's just those few who rush through things and don't spend enough time paying attention to the task at hand that make people skeptical of who theyre putting their health in the hands of. Okay. Ranting over.

Flaw #1

So far my partner and I have finished doing asthma audits at two different clinics. As I mentioned before, I am volunteering for a different class as well and last week I had to give a presentation on my experience there. This forced me to reflect on the time I spent at the clinics and draw some conclusions about the health care system as a whole. Flaw #1: illegibility. We worked with paper files at both of the clinics which has both its advantages and drawbacks. I didn't know this going into volunteering, but each time you go in for a visit the doctor, they write down pretty much everything that happened including symptoms you described, how your feeling, how you got a long with anyone you came with, etc....so they could write 'so and so seemed distracted today' or whatever. i kind of found myself wondering what my doctors wrote about me. Anways, back to my point. So these patient visits are where we find the bulk of the information that we need and they're typed out so thats really nice. However, things like over the phone consultations and medication refill requests are all handwritten-I'd say over 50 percent of the time you have absolutely no idea what the doctor is writing. It pretty much looks like scribbles...and that just kills me. I mean, if the doctor took like 3 more seconds just to go a little slower, you would be able to read it just fine. Otherwise, if it's illegible, why even have it? It really has no value if no one can even read it. Hopefully this problem will soon be eliminated though since both of the clinics are converting there paperfile to electronic files really soon. It's gonna take a loooooooong time but I think it will be worth it in the long run. I'm gonna list flaw #2 in my next entry so I can split this up into two...so read on if you find this remotely interesting

March 30, 2007

Community Engagement Scholars Program

Even before the speaker came in to our class to talk about the Community Engagement Scholars program I had already been interested in it, but now I for sure want to go for it. I just think it would be an amazing experience and really be one of the more worthwhile and beneficial learning oppurtunities I get in college. It's incredible how much stuff you can learn out of the classroom just by being out in the community and exposing yourself to new situations/people. I know 400 hours of undergrad sounds like a lot but I figure if I just keep volunteering weekly it shouldn't be that hard to do. I'm also really interesting in doing some service learning abroad (maybe in South Africa or Ghana?) which would help cover a lot of my hours. Anyways, I signed up for an informational meeting so I'll have to see how that goes.

March 25, 2007

Locked in

When I got to Open Arms on Friday the first thing they had me do was put about 100 cookies in those plastic baggys that don't ziploc. I haven't used those kind since I was a kid so I broke out my problem solving skills and took one of the already wrapped ones and unwrapped it to figure it out. Once I got the hang of it it was pretty easy. I got to work with four middle aged gay guys this time and actually had a lot of fun. They were all really nice and I had a pretty long conversation while working with two of them that were a couple. They asked how long I had been working here and where I went to school and how I ended up at the organization. They were pretty new to it as well. One of the reasons I enjoy volunteering here is because the atmosphere is so laid back. Everyone jokes around with each other and theres always enough food to sample some yourself. I think the first day I was there for orientation, I remember the leader saying "nobody ever leaves here hungry"...and I can see why. The couple I was talking to earlier were bagging chocolate chip cookie bars and we all ended up having one...they were pretty amazing. Also that day I helped bag some frozen meals that were going to be delievered the next day and oh yeah---I GOT LOCKED IN THE WALK IN FREEZER. I was only locked in for like 30 seconds but that was still enough time for me to panick. Luckily someone was walking by while I was knocking on the door. Phew.

March 15, 2007


So today was the first day I actually did hours for my asthma thing and I actually went to Phalen Village Clinic in St. Paul rather than Smiley's (there both university clinics). When we got there we found out that unlike our training session at Smiley's, we'd be looking through stacks of paperwork instead of computer documentation of physician visits. We were a little disappointed. There were two of us and we spent three long hours looking through stacks of papers and we got through about 25 asthma patients. Something that really suprised me was the age range of the patients that we were looking at--there were some that were only 6 months old and one that was in her 80's. It's sad to see that a baby can already have a folder full of doctor visits before they can even talk. One of the things we have to list on the chart we fill out is if they have had any 'asthma education' in the last year. This seems like one of the more important things to find out since we are trying to help raise awareness and minimize astma related hopital/ER visits, but I'm pretty sure on every single patient I had to list 'no' because no where could I find any documentation to indicate otherwise. It kind of made me wonder why we were even doing this...One thing that I found really interesting was the comparison of the two clinics I went to. Even though they're not that far away, you can tell there in two pretty different neighborhoods just by the people you see waiting for appointments and the way they organize everything.

March 5, 2007

volunteering at open arms

So today was my first day volunteering at open arms. I got to work in the kitchen and I actually really liked it. At first I wanted to adminstrative work and the kitchen was my second choice, but I discovered that I really like the environment of the kitchen. Everyone there is extremely nice and very helpful. When I got there, I got a tour of the kitchen and then was put straight to work. The first thing I did was use one of those big, mechanical slicer thingys to cut some cheese and some ham. I had never used anything like that before, but it turned out to be pretty easy and suprisingly enjoyable. Then it was packaging time. There was about five of us who all worked together to do this. Someone had already put food into cordboard trays with little compartments so one person took those and dropped them on the machine. Once they went through, they come out sealed with plastic and then some one labels them and I stacked them. After that, we set up five stations and each station had about 200 of these trays with different entrees in them. We went through and took a tray from each station and then they were bagged. These bags are what the clients recieve each week. It was really crazy to see such a large amount of food being given away--once you see it you really understand how large the orginization is and how many people they help. It's also pretty amazing to think that that much food can be prepared in a kitchen literally only the size of our classroom and that all of it is prepared by people who aren't getting paid. I had a really good time volunteering today.

February 26, 2007

Smiley's training session

So on friday i went to smiley's clinic to find out exactly what i would be doing there...it was very different than i expected it was going to be. There were three other people from my class there and we met with two people that will be supervising us. We all had laptop computers and logged into the the clinic's system. It was really cool, with our username we have access to see any of the patients records like we could see what medications they were on and when their last visit was and everything. Then the guy gave us a blank chart that we had to fill out about a patient. It had questions like 'was this person taught how to use an inhaler in the last six months' , 'do they have an asthma action plan', and 'when was their last spirometry?' On the clinic's network, we can search through all of the patient's previous appointments that have been summarized by doctors, any tests they have undergone, any hospital discharge papers etc, to find the answers to fill in the chart. We went through a couple of practice runs with random patients together and then at the end we had to fill in the chart by ourselves. It felt really crazy to me that we were allowed to look at all this information about an individiual that we didnt even know--i mean were just college student with no previous medical experience at all. Its nuts. anways...once we went through a couple runs, it was pretty easy to get the hang of. i could see how the process could be pretty boring doing it for two hours straight though. I hope end up enjoying my time there.

February 15, 2007

Open Arms Orientation

So I spent my valentines day at an orientation for Open Arms and taking a midterm. It was great fun. Anyways...to get to open arms i had to take a bus and i really had no idea where I was going so it was kind of scary. I eventually got there and I was like 15 minutes early so I went in and they said the orientation was not at 2 but at 3. crap. So the guy i talked to there was actually really nice and told me about a library that was just a few blocks away so i studied there for an hour. When i came back there were about 5 other people there for orientation there as well. I was the only student from the U which kind of suprised me. Anyways, the head volunteer guy talked about how the orginazation was started and everything then gave us a tour. It's a really incredible place when you think about it. The builidng is small and the kitchen is even tinier so its amazing to think that they can make over 100,000 meals in a year. At the end i kind of had to rush to leave because it got done at 4 and i had a midterm at 4:40. it was stressful. The guy said that the next step was that they would look at the hours of availability that i gave them and would contact me to let me know when i start. Overall, i really like this orginization...everyone there is extreeemely nice and it seems like a really great work environment. Im excited to start volunteering there.

February 13, 2007


Today in class we did some implicit association tests. I did three: race, sexuality, and weight. All three of the results kind of suprised me. For the race one, it said I had a 'moderate' preference of white people over black people. This was suprising because I don't consider myself racist at all and would like to think that I dont allow stereotypes that society sets about race affect what I think. The test seemed kind of flawed however. I would like to see how the results changed if at first you had to associated with 'good' things instead of 'bad' things--i really think that reversing the order would make a difference. Also, for the weight and sexuality test, it said I had moderate preference for overweight people and a slight preference for gay people. I never really thought about that and I suppose the results could be kind of scewed, but if they are true, i think its pretty cool that I'm able to overcome the stereotypes held about these two groups of people.

February 11, 2007

Volunteer fair

This week I went to the Health Center Volunteer Fair where there were a bunch of booths with organizations from the twin cities that had information about volunteering and internships. I went as an assignment for a different class but I’m really glad I went because I got a chance to talk to someone from Open Arms—it was actually the same guy who came to talk to our class. I told him that I was going to be attending an orientation next week for administrative work and asked if he knew what that might entail. He said I would be doing anything from labeling outgoing meals, to preparing gift-packages, data entry, answering phones, and preparing for special events. I asked him if there were any special events coming up and he told me about something called the “The Moveable Feast? in early May where they send some of the people with HIV/AIDS that they serve out for a night on the town. They are served drinks and deserts and then chauffeured to one of forty-five restaurants downtown where they are treated to a main course. It sounded like a really cool event that maybe I could get involved in.
This Friday I also went to the service learning workshop at the YMCA building. Some of the activities kind of made me feel like I was back in middle school but I guess there were some that were helpful to do before going out and volunteering. It was really interesting to hear some of the statistics about poverty and about the racial makeup of Minnesota.

February 5, 2007

Smiley's Orientation

This week on Thursday I had an orientation type thing for Smiley's clinc where I will be volunteering at. The supervisor went over what we will be doing and it actually sounds pretty cool. What happens is that the center for disease control and the clinic team up to fight asthma (a major problem in urban communities because of all the pollution). To see how effective they are, they analyze their patients records when they come in and see if their asthma is improving and if they are taking the right medicines and stuff. This is where we come in. We are going to be trained to look at charts and other medical information to see if the clinic and the patient are doing a good job to treat the asthma. At the orientation, the leader asked us to breath through slightly bent straws to show us how poeple with asthma have to breath all the time. We also watched a short movie that explains that showed what was physically happening in the body when someone has an asthma attack. Since we wont start training until the end of February (therefore I won't be able to actually volunteer until March), I'm going to have to volunteer somewhere else as well. I contacted Open-Arms and got a list of orienation days from them so I will be volunteering there as well. I'm not really looking forward to volunteering at both places because i already feel like i have so much to do already but I guess I'm going to have to do my best.

January 29, 2007


My first choice for volunteering was an administrative position at Open Arms. As soon as I heard kind of service and support the organization offered to people living with HIV/AIDS, I knew it was something I wanted to get involved in. I think it’s a great idea to provide hot meals and a friendly face to someone who may not be able to get out much or have friends and family that can visit them regularly. I really would’ve like to be involved with the delivery of the meals just because it would’ve given me the chance to actually interact with the people and see who I am helping out, but I don’t have access to a car so I wasn’t able to do that. Even though I would really like to, I’m not sure I will end up volunteering here. I already have to volunteer at a health clinic for another class so it’s going to be really hard to try and fit two places into my schedule. I’m going to see if the health clinic will count for this class as well but if it doesn’t, I’m going to have to find a way to make them both work.

January 18, 2007


Why did you choos the "Community Learning" section of composition? What experiences have you had working in the community? How do you define "service"?

Since I had to take an English class, I tried to find one that would actually interest me and make me think. When I found this class, I knew it was the one for me because it would give me a chance to not only brush up on my writing but to get involved in the community. I am involved in Habitat for Humanity and through that I have had many oppurtunites to give back to the community and reach out to people in need. Finally, I would define service as providing your time/skills to help others.