When I was 16, I volunteered in a special needs school for children aged 4-18 with a range of disabilities and needs. I was assigned to a class of 12 students and due to a lack of staff, my volunteer role was like a teaching assistant. About two weeks into my placement, we received a new student, Angelika. She had just moved to the country from Poland and she spoke very little English.
Angelika suffered with Cerebral Palsy as well as a few other health problems. She was unable to walk and communicated through a computer. I instantly made an connection with Angelika. Her spirit beamed through her smile and she was so determined to be a part of the class. Throughout her first week, there were multiple occasions where there was a communication barrier. We found ourselves calling her mum to translate for us and it was just not an effective way to communicate. After a pretty stressful week, I wanted to help, more, however I could. That weekend, I found myself a tutor to learn at least a little basic Polish to make Angelika’s transition easier. Monday came around and I had some basic words down. When she came into the class room, I said, “Czesc, yak sie masz,” which means, ”hello, how are you?” Let me tell you, her eyes beamed, she threw her hands in the air and her smile stretched from ear to ear.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Angelika’s physical therapist reached out to me and asked me to help with her appointments. I was able to learn enough Polish to assist Angelika in understanding what she needed to do and get rid of the frustrations of her not being able to communicate. A week before Christmas, I witnessed Angelika taking her first unassisted steps. My heart was so full and as everyone in the room cried happy tears, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I was able to be part of that experience. For the next six months that I was at Riverwalk school, I was able to aid multiple students by translating for them, and helped reduce the stress of not understanding. By committing to a purpose, I was able to make strong, meaningful relationships that I will never forget.
I challenge you to find a way you can experience this kind of relationship in your volunteering. Find a way to go above and beyond and serve every patient with excellent care.
Fruitland Volunteer Coordinator