Volunteering at the Hope Lodge really helped me to look at the world in a different way and to think very hard about what I want to do with my life. No matter how bad I was feeling for myself the Hope Lodge always made me realize how truly thankful and appreciative I should be of the life I have and the opportunities I have been given. The people there really moved me to consider my life goals. I have been planning on applying to medical school but am now thinking of a graduate program dealing with cancer biology. Cancer is such a horrible thing and it affects so many people lives, even if its indirectly. I hope that I can take a stand as a leader in the different organizations I'm involved in to raise awareness about cancer. I want to join Colleges Against Cancer next year so I can be a leader on campus fighting for cancer prevention and further research for treatment. The Hope Lodge has done so much for me and I can't wait until next year when I can go back to volunteering there and hopefully help more of the guests. This has been one of the best opportunities I have ever had!
When I was volunteering last Thursday I had the opportunity to run bingo night once again. It's my favorite thing to do at the Hope Lodge because it lets me interact to closely with the guests there. One of the regulars, and one of my favorite guests: Dennis, was missing although is wife was there. I knew that he was probably at the hospital overnight going through treatment which made me realize what a toll cancer takes on not only the patient but the caretaker as well. His wife would have to say alone at the Hope Lodge that night, far away from home, while her husband was fighting for his life at the hospital. Another woman was there with her husband, both are bingo regulars, who had just returned from being gone for two weeks of treatment. She was recovering very well and it was great to see how much her husband cared for her. I had to take over playing bingo for his for a little bit because he insisted on getting her pain medication for her because he knew she needed it. Cancer is such a horrible disease but even through everything people are so strong and determined and overall so hopeful. Seeing people who have been through hell and back remain so thankful and humble is amazing.
When volunteering on Thursday one of the couples that has been at the Hope Lodge for a very long time told me that they are leaving this weekend. I have gotten to know them pretty well through hanging out and playing bingo as well as talking a lot with the husband and trying to make plans to get a pool table. It was a weird feeling to know that I won't see them again. On one hand I was sad to see them go but on the other hand it was very exciting that they get to go home because the wife is finished with her treatment. I told them I was happy for them but would miss them and they said they would definitely visit often. It is so great to see how much the Hope Lodge has touched some of the residents. Every night when I go to volunteer I am reminded to be thankful for what I have and be humble and hopeful in everything that I do. I think these are great characteristics in a leader as well which is something I can take away from this and use in many areas of my life. The Hope Lodge is teaching me so much more than I anticipated!
This was a great experience. It was so cool to be enveloped and ACCEPTED into another culture like I was. Inspiring to see all the women I taught work so hard. My original prediction seems correct, I think I learned a lot more Somali than I taught English, but I broke down barriers and opened communication. I made many friends and gave both these women, men, and children confidence in interacting with naturalized Americans and gained myself the confidence to interact with the Somali culture. Looking back, it was shockingly easy to communicate and interact with individuals who spoke a completely language and have a drastically culture, even from day one. I think this speaks to the unity among of all humans. I was asked to present my project at the Dean's Scholars end of the year reception as well, which was extremely exciting. It was great to get the opportunity to present what I've learned to more people and inspire the Freshmen class to really get excited and take-on their volunteer projects next year. The time constraint was a little difficult, but I think I was able to hit on all of the most important parts of my unique experience. I plan on continuing my work over the summer, as long as people come, and am thinking about organizing a fundraiser for Somali->English dictionaries and ESL workbooks. I am going to speak to individuals I know involved in ESL and see if they think this may be feasible. This was a great experience, and so glad I took it on.
Something really small happened when I was volunteering last that was somewhat upsetting. I was alone at the desk and told only one person was checking in that night but a second couple showed up. I didn't have their file out and had no idea where to find it because it isn't my job to check people in. I called the supervisor to come help but she was all the way upstairs and said it would be a little bit. The guest was very angry and kept complaining about his car ride and how he needed to get up to his room, he was nearly yelling at me. It was frustrating because I love being at the Hope Lodge and the people always are so kind and grateful and to get someone who was so unhappy was not the beginning of a good night. I know that he is going through a lot while trying to fight cancer so I was nothing but nice. It was just an eye-opener to see someone who wasn't as grateful and kind as I was used to.
The Hope Lodge was somewhat slow while I was volunteering last week and so I started to look up pool tables on craigslist. Many of the residents have been wanting a pool table and I decided to see what is out there. I found a couple of pretty nice pool tables for only a couple hundred dollars! It was fun to check out the pictures with the guests and caretakers at the Hope Lodge, they really enjoyed the prospect of maybe getting a pool table. It was a really great opportunity for me to bond with them and interact and keep them entertained. Hopefully in the future I can keep working on trying to find a pool table for the guests because they are all so amazing and have really helped me see the world in a new light and are a joy to be around.
Last week was my final day of volunteering at Hope Lodge. I cleaned the kitchens, vacuumed, and did some front desk duties. At the end, I was given a keychain along with a thank you card for all that I had done. At first, I didn't think I really deserved this much for what I had done. But looking back, my serving directly affected the guests at Hope Lodge in a positive manner. Had I or another volunteer not cleaned the kitchens every week, an airborne disease might have started an infection outbreak at the lodge. Had I not made beds, new guests wouldn't have been able to stay at the lodge. Now, I'm not trying to say that I was the reason that Hope Lodge was so successful, but I will say that without the help from any of the volunteers, Hope Lodge wouldn't be around. This makes me very proud, to know that we have so many people willing to dedicate 2 hours a week to better the lives of people stricken with cancer.
I really like attending this event because I was able to use my Spanish. The person giving the presentation was not completely fluent in Spanish and the interpreter asked for help from the audience in case she forgot some statements. I was also able to learn a lot about breast cancer since I heard it twice: one in English and once in Spanish. I felt particularly connected with the elderly women in the room that brought their granddaughters with them. This reminded me of the times I have gone to health events and doctor visits in Colombia with my grandmother. I have found that elderly Hispanic women are very scared of cancer. I felt happy that their questions and concerns were being answered during the presentation.
The Living Green Expo was alright. I just sat at a table and talked to people again. I felt more comfortable talking to people this time though because I had done it before and I knew a little more about Do It Green! than the last time I tabled a booth. There were so many other booths too there though! I wish I would have taken the time to walk around and look at everything a little more, but after a while I just got too tired tabling. It gets stressful just sitting there, waiting for people to come up and look at things and ask you questions. Also, I wasn't as if there were anythings especially that I wanted to see or look at.
This semester, and hopefully longer, I will be volunteering at The American Cancer Society in there health education department. Through this service I will be volunteering at different events that the American Cancer Society participates in that help to educate people of different cultural backgrounds on cancer. My first impressions of the place were positive. I thought the place was well put together and the information that was delivered was complete, but it was not too much to lose my attention. The women, Dai Vu, who gave the presentation and tour seemed to be very passionate about her work which I really appreciated because that makes me more passionate and excited to start volunteering.
After listening to Dai Vu and seeing the facility, I learned that the facility exists for many different reasons, but the department I will be working with is there to educate people about cancer. This department is split further into subgroups based on ethnicity groups. By doing this the subgroups can then focus on more of what each group need for an example, some people just need more general information on cancer while others need to learn how to talk about cancer. This also allows a diverse amount of people to be served. Starting out my job will be to assist in the education of these diverse people, but as I volunteer I hope to expand my responsibilities.
In the future I hope to be able to be the leader of an education presentation. The organization would train me to give a presentation by educating me about cancer, so then I can go out into the community and educate other people. This decision surprised me the most about my experience because I am not the most comfortable public speaker, but I think this will be a good experience because it will force me out of my comfort zone. Overall, I am very excited to start volunteering at the American Cancer Society because I think it will be a great experience, and I will be helping to serve the problem of cancer not a symptom because by educating people you give them the power to make smarter decisions.