Epilogue Part Two: Challenge to Volunteer

Lindsay

Winter is coming and the homeless population lives on the street in the cold. They have nowhere to go for warmth. I look in my closet and I have many warm coats and scarves. Half of them, I have not worn in years. I plan to donate some of my coats this winter.  I volunteer because there are hurting people in this city who need help. They need community. They need a safe place to come and receive the help they need. They need to know they will not be judged, but lovingly cared for. I volunteer because I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I volunteer because not everyone has a warm coat, a warm bed or a warm meal to go home to.

Before starting my odyssey I had gotten overly comfortable with living in my own little world, but now I want to live a life with purpose. I want to encourage other volunteers to do the same. There have been many studies showing the effects of volunteering. For me, a study only cements what I have felt since starting my journey into volunteering.   One of these such studies was performed by the UnitedHealth Group and studied how volunteering positively impacts your physical health. Out of those participating in the study over 76 percent reported feeling physically healthier and having a reduction of stress [1].  A huge majority who participated attributed their improved overall mood to volunteering. In addition to the impact volunteering can have on your physical health, it can also help you boost future career options and learn and develop new skills. A study conducted by TimeBank found that 73 percent of employers recruit candidate with volunteer experience over candidate without a background volunteering [2]. Without help from volunteers, non-profits cannot provide their services to those needing assistance. Without these services, those in need remain in need. Non-profits are often the only hope people in need have. There are people in need everywhere you look. The question is whether or not you will choose to see them. Do you see them for who they are or for who you presume they are? The more you get involved in volunteering, the more you will begin to realize that many of your assumptions about the poor are wrong. They each have a story. They each just want a chance to be heard. Take a moment, listen to them tell you about their life. I guarantee you will walk away with a new perspective on their struggles, as well as your own. I can speak for myself and say that the more I listen to the hurting people in our city, the less I complain. I am not so quick to judge the man standing on the corner asking for spare change. I am quicker to listen and help when a need arises. I will leave you with a quote from Dorothy Day that really expresses why volunteering has meant so much to me; I hope it impacts you as well.

“We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.”- Dorothy Day

[1] “Doing Good is Good for You,” UnitedHealth Group, 2013. http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/~/media/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.ashx

 

[2] “National Citizenship Survey,” Reed Executive, 2009. http://timebank.org.uk/key-facts

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com————————————————————————————————————————————

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Epilogue Part One: The lesson in my Odyssey

The children at Early Head Start love being read to

The children at Early Head Start love being read to

I have been unemployed since July and in that time stared to feel down about ever finding a job. I also questioned whether I would feel passionate again. It excites me that I am more passionate now than I have been in a long time. I have become passionate about the impact different non-profits are having on the city of Memphis. My heart is overwhelmed as I sit and reflect on the different people I have met through the Volunteer Odyssey experience. I was there to serve them, but they helped me in ways I never imagined were possible. Through this experience I realized just how much I was living in my own little world, as if I was the only one who mattered. Because of my time volunteering, my world has grown to include the people in need.

Working to put together a puzzle of the Solar System

Working hard to put together a puzzle of the Solar System at SRVS

My church pastor always reminds those of us in his congregation that, “You are blessed to be a blessing.” I am thankful for this frequent reminder. Anything I have has been given to me so that I can invest in others. Due to being unemployed, I do not have a lot of financial resources to give, but I can give of myself. I certainly have a lot of free time to volunteer at different organizations, and I plan on volunteering more often.  Since the end of my Odyssey week, I have revisited two of the locations I volunteered. In volunteering I am doing what I feel I am supposed to be doing. I am not volunteering to benefit myself or to look good to others. I am doing it because I love the city of Memphis and the people who live here. I want to be the change I want to see in this city. Instead of just sitting back and hoping things will change, I decided to take a hands on approach and work toward the change I want to see. Thank you Volunteer Odyssey for making this experience possible. It is one I will not soon forget.

Please stay tuned for Epilogue Part 2:  Challenge to Volunteer.
Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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The Invisible Population

A few pictures of families who have come to the Dorothy Day House
The office/play room downstairs. This space allows the family to search for jobs online while letting their little ones play.

The office/play room downstairs. This space allows the family to search for jobs online while letting their little ones play.

I do not know if I could ever look someone in the eye who has nowhere else to go and tell them I cannot help them. This is what Sister Maureen does on a daily basis; the day before my visit she turned down 5 families. Sister Maureen is the heart and soul of The Dorothy Day House. As I sat and listened to Sister Maureen discuss all that the organization does for the city of Memphis, I was filled with awe, compassion, sadness, and was on the verge of tears multiple times. Listening to her recount how many families she has to turn away made my heart sink and my eyes well with tears. Sister Maureen shared with me how homeless families are the invisible population. You rarely, if ever, will see a homeless family out at night, because they are trying to remain unseen. If they are seen and confirm they are homeless, their children will be taken away.  Sister Maureen says on any given night there are between 100 and 200 homeless families, in Memphis. Some of these families are without a home because of a traumatic event, such as sudden loss of work or a house fire; others are in these circumstances because of generational poverty. Either way, these families are under much stress and want desperately to provide for their spouse or children, but do not have the means.

The large kitchen that the families share in the house

The large kitchen that the families share in the house

I am glad to know that the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality exists and is committed to keeping family units together. There are over 150 Dorothy Day Houses of Hospitality; each are independently run and funded. These houses receive no government or state funding, and are solely sustained on donations. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality provides temporary housing and support services for homeless families throughout Memphis. With the help of local agencies, staff, and volunteers, the Dorothy Day House provides families with a safe environment, and the means to re-establish their independence. Throughout the family’s stay, they receive assistance with education guidance, parenting skills, employment counseling, transportation, child care referrals, budgeting advice, and access to sources of permanent housing. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality works with each family to set personal goals and make sure that each family is continually working toward those goals. The staff also stay in close contact with the families after they leave the Dorothy Day House in order to assure they are able to maintain their independence. I will end with a quote from Dorothy Day that truly expresses how my heart feels after my time spent at the Dorothy Day House:

“What we would like to do is change the world-make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute…we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Why Habitat is Needed

Hard at work
The front of their soon-to-be new home

The front of their soon-to-be new home

Habitat for Humanity is committed to helping those in need, in a very tangible and practical way. When I arrived there to volunteer, I was greeted by Amy, the volunteer coordinator as well as one of the construction managers. Amy and I immediately got busy setting up the registration table with snacks and coffee. Minutes later, construction workers started lining up at the table. Part of my volunteer duties were to have each worker complete a waiver, and give each of them a wrist band and name tag. Once this was complete, the construction manager led the group in the safety talk and morning  prayer. As the construction workers gathered their materials, and got busy working on the house, Amy told me a little about the family that Habitat was building this particular home for. This home was being built for a grandmother and her granddaughter.  The grandmother is in a wheelchair and needed her home to be completely accessible. The grandmother and granddaughter are renting a home just a couple of houses down the street from the site of their new home. Amy explained that their new home was being built with special accommodations to allow the grandmother complete access to her entire household. Later in the morning, the homeowners stopped by to watch their home being built. It was great to meet them; it allowed me to put a face with the project were working so hard to complete. The family loved talking about the different paint colors, carpet, and tile they were going to use in their new home.  I could tell by the smiles on their faces how thankful they were for each of the volunteers and their hard work.

 

 

Working hard on the roof

Working hard on the roof

I really enjoyed my time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity; before volunteering there I was unsure of what the organization was about and how people qualified for the program. Amy, their wonderful volunteer coordinator was excited to share with me about why Habitat is needed. She told me that over 26% of Memphis residents live below the poverty line, and more than 12 % of those have incomes 50% below poverty line. Many of the families in poverty use more than half of their income to pay rent. Three major criteria must be met in order to qualify for habitat housing: a physical inadequacy of a family’s current structure, overcrowding in a family’s living conditions, and overwhelming cost burden. Each homeowner must complete Financial Peace University which is taught by Habitat staff, as well as contribute Sweat Equity hours- by either helping to build their own home or volunteering on another home build. The family’s new home will be ready at the beginning of November. I look forward to being there the day the family gets the keys to their new home. I know they will be so excited.

Working on the porch

Working on the porch

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Putting the puzzle together

Working hard on the puzzle
SRVS: The Family Answer for Disability

SRVS: The Family Answer for Disability

For the last five years, I have had the pleasure of working with the special needs population. And for the last five years, I have been full of joy and can not picture myself doing anything else. I love being part of helping people learn new skills and growing to their full potential. SRVS (pronounced “serves”) is the only agency in West TN that provides residential, employment, family support, clinical, and learning center services under one roof.

Working on tracing numbers

Working on tracing numbers

For the first part of my morning, I was able to spend time in one of the classrooms in the Learning Center. The Learning Center provides access to progressive learning and the ability to choose activities according to personal interests. The clients in the classrooms seem to really enjoy being able to pick their own activities. When I walked into the classroom, a few of the clients said hello and introduced themselves. I could not help but smile as I sat talking to each client. They were genuinely happy to see a new face. Each client was working on something different. I helped one client put tiles numbered 1-100 in order and then he was to write them out on a grid. He was struggling to get them correct. I had him work on just ten numbers at a time, and he did great! I could tell he was less overwhelmed and this allowed him to perform the task with accuracy. Next, I helped a different client work on a Solar System puzzle. He had been working on the puzzle for quite a while and was making slow progress. I was able to help him look at the different colors on each puzzle piece and use that as a guide to help him figure out where each piece went. When he finished the puzzle, he had a big smile. I made sure to encourage him and let him know he had done a great job.

Working to put together a puzzle of the Solar System

Working to put together a puzzle of the Solar System

A lot of the clients in this particular classroom had difficulty communicating. From my years of experience, I know that there are more ways to communicate than by just using speech. I can communicate a lot by just facial expressions, hand gestures, or even by pointing. I was able to use each of these types of communication while in the classroom. In my past experience working with people with disabilities, it is much like putting together a puzzle. There are many different pieces for each person; for the puzzle to become whole, the different pieces have to be put together in the right order in order to achieve success. Those pieces can include concepts such as communication, level of motivation, sensory input needs, and interest in activities. As the educator, it takes time to discover everything there is to know about each piece and how each interaction affects how the puzzle is put together. If a client does not like music and is otherwise interested in art, these are characteristics I have to take into account when planning activities for that particular client. If a person does not enjoy what they are doing, they are less likely to learn from it. Once I discover how to fit the puzzle pieces together in order to make the puzzle whole, it allows me and the client to benefit the most from their learning experience.

My morning at SRVS reaffirmed everything I knew about my love for those with special needs. My time with SRVS is not one I will easily forget. Though I am there to teach people with special needs, I always end up walking away having learned something new about myself.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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The Poor and Powerless

If money were not an issue and I had unlimited financial resources, I would commit to helping the poor and powerless each day. This was the thought that was at the forefront of my mind when I started my day volunteering at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. While my heart was heavy, I was full of joy to be able to serve the homeless who do not easily have access to hot, nutritious food.

The day before I served in the soup kitchen I visited Starbucks. While drinking my coffee, and enjoying my pastry in the cool air conditioning, I saw a woman in a walker pass by. She had a sign on her walker saying she was handicapped, and needed help getting to another state. She sat on the corner for over two hours in the 90 degree heat. Not once did someone stop to talk to her, or offer help. My heart grew very sad as I sat there watching her. In two hours, I watched thousands of cars pass by her, not one car halted. Maybe I am the exception, but I cannot stand to pass any one in need without offering help, or a kind word of encouragement, when it is needed.

While speaking with some of the different staff and volunteers at the soup kitchen, they kept saying the same thing,  that they always want to treat the people they serve with respect. I agree with those working at the soup kitchen. I wanted the visitors of the kitchen to know they are respected by me, and that I was not volunteering to make myself feel better. I was volunteering to make sure that they have warm food and full stomachs. As I was volunteering, I never found a moment to take pictures. I did not want the people I was serving to think I was at the soup kitchen just for show, or to do my “good work” for the month. I have always felt a strong passion to help those who cannot otherwise help themselves. Being able to serve at the soup kitchen allowed this to become my reality. As I was handing out breakfast, I was smiling and telling my new friends in line good morning. I was slightly shocked to see so many of them smiling and greeting me in return. If I was in their shoes, I am not so sure I would be smiling. From the outside looking in, they do not seem to have many reasons to smile. But reality is, they are in line to receive nutritious food, they are thankful for the food they receive, and thankful to simply be living.

My time volunteering at St. Mary’s did not start when I entered into the facility, but the day before. Taking a few hours out of my morning to make a difference in the life of someone else is not something I will regret; I hope more people would feel the same.

Below I have included a passage from the Bible that were very present in my heart through this journey.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?…And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:35-37, 40.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Feeding the Hungry

Mid-South Food Bank

During my Odyssey week, I had the privilege of learning more about the MidSouth Food Bank. The Food Bank has three major target populations: children, families, and seniors. The Food Bank has several initiatives for each target population in order to ensure they are consuming nutritious meals on a regular basis. In the Food Bank service area, twenty-three percent of children are considered to be food insecure. The Food Bank has two large programs that allow children to receive nutritious meals. They have three Kids Café locations which each provide nutritious meals twice a week as well as teach the children about the importance of nutritious eating. They also have the Food for Kids BackPack Program. This program provides a backpack filled with nutritious, child-friendly food for children to take home for the weekend. Each backpack contains six complete meals as well as fun nutrition information activities.

The tree is covered in cards that event goers can purchase to help the Food Bank fill backpacks for their program. The tree was displayed at their Miles for Meals event

The tree is covered in cards that event goers can purchase to help the Food Bank fill backpacks for their program. The tree was displayed at their Miles for Meals event

For their feeding families initiative they have a program called Hunger’s Hope. Hunger’s Hope distributes food to different food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth programs, senior programs, rehabilitation and residential center throughout the MidSouth. They also have a Mobile Pantry which allows direct delivery of fresh produce and frozen meat to underserved communities.

More than eleven percent of those receiving assistance from the Food Bank are seniors over the age of 60 (over 20,000 seniors). Seniors are the fastest growing group of food insecure individuals. In order to help the seniors in the MidSouth, the Food Bank has the Senior Grocery Program. Each Senior Grocery food box contains food for a senior to prepare and consume at home. Each box contains enough food for one month.

I volunteered to help at the Mid-South Food Bank’s Miles for Meals event, which was a Walk/Run fundraiser for their organization. While there, I had an opportunity to meet their Volunteer Coordinator, Paula Rushing, who took the time to introduce me to multiple team members including their CEO Estella Mayhue-Greer. I ended my day by helping at the ice cream booth.

The MidSouth Food Bank is well on their way to helping ensure each member of our community has nutritious food to eat. On September 19, 2013, the MidSouth Food Bank is having an event called “Stuff a MATA bus.” This event will be held from 8a.m.-5p.m. in the Poplar Plaza Shopping Center. The most needed items include: Money (1$ can provide 3 meals), canned soups and stews with meat, tuna, peanut butter, canned vegetables, and canned fruit. If you would like to contribute to their efforts, please stop by and donate canned food items.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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The Power and Surprise of Influence

The children at Early Head Start love being read to

Today, my heart overflowed with excitement all day, as I was surrounded by smiling teachers and children.  My odyssey at Porter Leath Early Head Start taught me many things; I learned what is it have joy, the importance of investing in young children, and how to be a good role model to them. I loved investing in the next generation and being part of the Porter Leath family!

Porter Leath’s Early Head Start Program is designed for children, birth to three years of age. It allows low-income children to receive all the necessary skills in order to be successful in the classroom. When I arrived, I was given a tour by two wonderful women; the smiles on their faces revealed how much they loved their work. There are six different rooms where children are divided, based on their ages.  While on my tour of the facility, we peeked in each classroom through observation windows.  I was given the choice to choose which classroom I would spend my time, and it was an easy decision. Young children are my favorite, so I chose a classroom with eight, two year olds. Two is by far my favorite age, they are impressionable and pick up on everything just by observing their environment.

Upon entering the classroom, I was greeted with smiles, both from the teachers and children. They were wrapping up circle time but I got to sing a couple of songs before we moved on to the next activity. Circle time is when the children sing songs and read books. I adored circle time because are able to learn fundamental information but in a fun, kinesthetic way. My favorite song was at the end. They sang, “_____ has their jumping shoes on,” filling in the blank for the name of a child in the circle. The teachers called on each student and while we sang and clapped our hands, they jumped and danced around. I could easily tell which children were sheepish.

After circle time the teachers and children transitioned to arts and crafts, where the children made paper-plate self-portraits. Through this activity I was able to work on help the children recognize the different features on their faces. I made it into a game; where I would point to a feature on my face, and the child would tell me what facial feature it was. Then I would point to a feature on their faces and they told me what feature it was. The kids laughed and giggled the entire time.

Blowing bubbles on the playground was tons of fun

Blowing bubbles on the playground was tons of fun

Next we went outside to play on the playground and blow bubbles, this was fun.  The children’s favorite part were popping the bubbles, they created a game where they would pop the bubbles before they hit the ground. After the bubbles, a little girl was playing on the slide and I pretended to grab her nose and put it in my pocket. Before I could say anything, she looked at me and said “My nose! You took my nose!” It was great to see her respond quickly to my interaction, and pick up the game. The rest of our afternoon was spent dancing, listening to music, and reading a few stories.

Story time at Porter-Leath Early Head Start

Story time at Porter-Leath Early Head Start

The facility gives the children a chance at a quality education, both now and in the future. This program is the stepping stone toward success.  It was a gift to be a role model to the children, at this impressionable, young age. There were several times in the day I caught children copying my moves, and repeating things I said; it was a reminder that you never know who is watching.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Educate. Encourage. Equip.

Educating, Encouraging, Equipping

Today, I learned it is okay to admit and ask for help. When I arrived at Refugee Empowerment Program (R.E.P.) I was immediately able to talk to another volunteer about his experiences volunteering with R.E.P. It was lovely to meet and connect with someone who is till new to volunteering at R.E.P.  I asked him what the experience has taught him thus far. His reply, “A huge appreciation for teachers. They work hard and are devoted to their students.”

Working hard on fractions!

Working hard on fractions!

Moments later we were greeted by Jules, one of the staff at R.E.P. He gave us a big smile and guided us inside the facility. The room was quite big and had several long tables and chairs. It was set up very much like a classroom, just larger. Other than a few volunteers, the room was empty; the children were on their way. I had no idea what to expect from this experience. Quickly, kids started filing in the room.  Before I knew it, the room was filled with children of all ages working hard on their homework.

I was joined at my table by a couple of girls in the 2nd and 3rd grade. They came over to me with huge smiles and asked if I could help them. We worked on several different subjects: English, Math, and even the Bible. It was fun to be able to teach them tricks I was taught when I was their age, to help them remember what they were learning.  The kids were eager to learn and were such hard workers; they did not stop until they were done. We made time for fun and lots of laughter along the way. Soon, the girls were finished and asked to go read. Moments later, two young boys approached the table I was sitting at, and asked for help with their Math homework. Math was always my favorite. I did not realize how much I had forgotten since grade school; I did not understand some of their assignments. It was difficult to admit to the boys that I was unsure of how to help them.

Rules of R.E.P.

Rules of R.E.P.

This experience showed me that I am allowed to admit I need help. These children were very quick to ask for help and say when they did not understand something. I often get caught up in making it seem like I have got it under control and that I do not need help. I am thankful for the children at R.E.P. who taught me how to remain humble and ask for help when I need it. I thought I was there to teach them something; they taught something much bigger in return.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com

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Prelude: Lindsay Weaver

Lindsay

As my Odyssey week approaches, I have an overwhelming sense of excitement. Excitement to serve the community in Memphis. Excitement to come alongside others who call Memphis home and desire to leave a mark on this city. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a desire to reach out to those in need and serve but was unsure of where to start. Though I have lived in Memphis for my entire life, I admit to being uneducated as to the different needs in this city. I am very excited to use my different skills and passions to help others and learn of more ways to lend a helping hand in this city. I hope this experience will strengthen current passions as well as develop new ones.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an educator to children and adults with special needs. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: Mail to: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or Leweaver0428@gmail.com. 
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