Smile! Happy Looks Good On You!

SRVS

When I first learned I would be volunteering at SRVS (pronounced serves), I was nervous yet excited about this unique opportunity. SRVS supports people with developmental disabilities and offers a variety of services for personal growth and development. Since I had never worked closely with people with developmental disabilities, I knew it was important to enter this experience with an open mind. My visit began with a neat tour of the facility from Lindsay Weaver. When she described to me what the clients do in each area, I couldn’t help but wish to be part of the fun. The clients are encouraged to explore their interests and develop new skills through innovative activities. Before this visit, I was concerned that I would hear sad stories regarding the challenges of living with or caring for someone with a disability. However, the chance to see and hear what clients love doing during the week put my mind at ease.

I understand why the people they serve are genuinely happy. With its equally warm and supportive environment, SRVS enables each person to make choices and enjoy more of what life has to offer. The agency’s services, which include residential, employment, clinical and learning center services, help people live, work, and learn to their fullest potential. Throughout my time with the clients and staff at SRVS, I was constantly reminded that so much could be achieved with the proper support system.

Throughout the morning, the clients were kept busy and satisfied with a variety of tasks and crafts. Honestly, I underestimated the number of enjoyable activities offered each day. From planting a garden to creating beautiful works of art, clients have many opportunities to make and experience special moments with others. Art continues to be my go-to creative outlet, so I was excited to make greeting cards with clients. I felt like I was being invited to the ultimate Arty Party! The creative space is dedicated to the clients’ creative processes and includes a wide selection of art supplies. I gained valuable insight into the clients’ personalities and interests through their pieces. After assisting with a couple of art classes, I had the chance to learn more about the Montessori method of education in a classroom. This method enables people to pursue their natural interests and hone their skills through exercises that promote the development of their individual selves. I can see why there are many supporters of the Montessori philosophy. You would have been impressed with how fast Gary matched images of seashells with their names. Also, Barbara beautifully demonstrated her advanced skills and techniques in ribbon weaving. I appreciate how the daily activities are structured to build upon the strengths in a way that is meaningful to each client at SRVS.

There was no reason for me to be nervous before my visit. Like any other human being, a person with developmental disabilities wishes to explore and enjoy what life has to offer. At SRVS, clients can simply be themselves. Isn’t that what we all want?

 

If you like our work, please DONATE to keep it going!


Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Looking for great volunteer opportunities in Memphis? Check out our calendar of volunteer opportunities.

Week 19, Day 6: SRVS-ing the Memphis Community

Day 6 started at 10 a.m., which allowed me to sleep in a little later. I don’t know why I feel the need for more sleep. As of late, three-hour naps have sneakily worked themselves into my daily routine. That aside, I headed out to explore my sixth nonprofit to explore, SRVS–an agency that offers programs and assistance to disabled men and women, no matter the severity of the disability.

I arrived at SRVS and met with Lindsay Weaver. Lindsay is the SRVS volunteer and activities coordinator. She’s also a Volunteer Odyssey alumna, which helped her score her current job. Once again, volunteerism proves to help awesome people net awesome opportunities!

The day I volunteered was a quiet day at the SRVS community, and I spent most of my time observing a couple of classrooms and being a lunch buddy. SRVS clients are divided up into classrooms under the guidance of a SRVS staff member or two. Each group spends their days doing different activities, learning new skills, and eating lunch together. Having participated in Volunteer Odyssey, Lindsay knows both the importance and the challenges of getting photos, so she offered to help out by taking all the photos. Thanks Lindsay!

For the first part of the day, I hung out with Tony and Ralph as they worked on color-sorting skills. The classrooms look similar to ones food at schools with tables and chairs, fun games, and color posters.

DSC_3906Tony and Kat color-categorizing some colorful plastic insects.

I had arrived close to lunchtime, and soon Lindsay whisked me off to the dining hall, where the first group of classrooms ate. The dining hall reminded me much of a typical school cafeteria –lunch boxes out, teachers monitoring the aisles, and plenty of jokes and laughter.

During lunch, I had the privilege of meeting Adrian, a longtime SRVS staff member and all-around good guy. While Adrian has held a variety of direct and indirect service positions, he currently works directly with clients, and anyone watching him can tell not only how much he enjoys his job, but how much the SRVS clients and staff enjoy his presence.

After lunch, I visited a second classroom where SRVS staff member Annette led students to a model apartment setup where the group practiced making a bed, folding clothes, and ironing before she quizzed them with flashcards of typical household items. My volunteer time at SRVS came to an end, and I left the model apartment to chat with Lindsay about my experiences.

While programs are in place to help disabled children attend public school, more are needed for when these same students graduate and are left without that support system. SRVS allows people with disabilities a myriad of opportunities by teaching life skills, providing community, and, at times, job placement. SRVS is one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind and I’m excited to watch it continue its good work!

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
If you like our work, please DONATE to keep it going!
Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!
——————————————————————————————————————————————————
——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Assisting Adults with Disabilities

Have you ever wondered if there were any special care facilities in Memphis for adults with disabilities? Furthermore, if they provided good-quality care with passionate employees and a giving spirit? I have. On Day 2 of my Volunteer Odyssey I found the answer.

SRVS “the family answer for disabilities” (their slogan) stands for Shelby Residential and Vocational School, pronounced, “serves”. They’re all about making sure individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities receive the care they need and truly deserve. I had the pleasure of working in a couple of classrooms and meeting some very fun and exciting students. One student I had the pleasure of meeting was Sandra. Sandra is 56 years old and has a myriad of mental and physical challenges that made her accomplishments at SRVS even more amazing. Sandra was an absolute delight and taught me the many different skills learned when learning the fundamentals of arithmetic. She taught me how to count, color coordinate trees and find patterns in pictures.

Sandra teaching patterns

Sandra teaching patterns

 

Learning with friends is always fun!

Learning with friends is always fun!

Perhaps the never-ending winter has impacted the city, but not the staff’s love of their clients. Astrid French was very energetic and was very proud of the work she has accomplished as curriculum coordinator at SRVS. She mentioned how SRVS offers cutting-edge programming such as the Montessori teaching methods implemented through an innovative curriculum. I had to Google “Montessori teaching methods” and immediately saw its prevalence at SRVS. The clients seemed happy and constantly busy so maybe Montessori is the way to go. I’m no expert, but I do know what I saw was a group of people not only learning but enjoying the process of learning and for me, that’s what makes the difference.

Another student I had the pleasure of meeting

Another student I had the pleasure of meeting

 

SVRS receives many donations and books are at the top of the list :)

SVRS receives many donations and books are at the top of the list :)

—————————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please consider making a donation to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Because I’m Happy…

Filling eggs for an Easter Egg hunt! So fun!

Filling eggs for an Easter Egg hunt! So fun!

Today was a very special day for me! I volunteered at SRVS, which is an organization that enhances the lives of adults with disabilities, both mental and physical.  Upon my arrival, Astrid French, the vibrant and passionate Curriculum Coordinator showed me around.  She firmly believes in using the Montessori method of teaching, which resonated with me.  I used much of it educating my own kids.  In short, this type of education is all about multi-age groups that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity.

My sweet friend Roslyn!

My sweet friend Roslyn!

While I waited on instruction I sat with a class that was performing karaoke.  The song “Happy” came on, and when it did it seemed to me that all barriers were broken.  It was as if teachers and students were one big happy family.  The room erupted with smiles and laughter, even the staff stopped to dance and enjoy this event.  Those who were able stood and danced (along with me), and those who could not either clapped or moved in their seats.  It was a very moving and exciting experience.  In these first few minutes, I knew what my blog name must be.

In the kitchen preparing the dye for the eggs!

In the kitchen preparing the dye for the eggs!

I absolutely love all holidays, especially Easter, and go all out for them.  I was thrilled to learn we would be dyeing Easter eggs with all classes. My job responsibilities included stuffing candy in eggs, preparing the egg-dyeing room (loved this because I am an organizer) and then showing the classes how to decorate their eggs (I love being creative).  This was challenging due to the range of disabilities, but very touching and rewarding.  Seeing the looks on their faces as they watched the eggs change color was priceless.  Even in their situations they were able to find joy and something to be happy about!

Ready for the first participants.

Ready for the first participants.

As you know by now, I have a tender heart, so it was not all laughs and fun today.  The harsh reality is this: the majority of the people in these classes are either homeless or have no family.  Homelessness is bad enough, but imagine someone who cannot talk or express themselves or even hold a spoon. Even though some of the students the staff works with will never be better, their quality of living is improved.

Fun Fun!

Fun Fun!

Today I got to observe a break-though of two students: one who can be aggressive and usually unable to sit still, sat for well over eight minutes waiting for his eggs to be the right color; the other young man who is very low functioning was able to hold the spoon and dip the egg in the color by himself.  The staff was overjoyed by what they had just witnessed, and I was moved to tears.

Astrid and Adrian (a sweet man who works there) told me to quote them: “Michelle was a lifesaver today!”

So pretty!

So pretty!

Thank you for reading!  Know an employer that’s looking for someone who’s great with kids? Need an event planner, organizer, or fundraiser?  Send an email our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or shelly2903@gmail.com.

——————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————

SRVS: A special encounter

Today was my first day to go on my Volunteer Odyssey.  I was sent to SRVS which is pronounced as “serves.”  This non-profit is where adults with disabilities can come learn new tasks through sensory play, art, music, dance, reading, math, and apartment living to even cooking in the kitchen.  When I first learned that I would be going to SRVS, I was really nervous but excited.  Even though I am an adult, I have never felt comfortable working with people with disabilities.  I would never know what to say and I would have trouble figuring out what they are trying to say to me. But all that changed today when I went to SRVS.  I just made sure I went in with a positive attitude and talk to them the way you and I would talk.

photo (4)

When I arrived at SRVS, I was introduced to Allison Renner who gave me a tour of the facility and she discussed what the clients get to do in each area.  I felt like I was at a really cool school with fun activities to keep me busy all day long.  Then I was placed in a room where I helped the clients with sensory play.  Even though I was still a little nervous, I finally felt at ease once I sat down and started working with Rosalyn and Denitia.  Rosalyn was working on tracing her letters and repeating what each letter was.  Denitia was working on numbers by looking at the number and putting the right amount of sticks in each slot.  I was also introduced to Debby who is a teacher that floats from room to room.  She talked to me about the sensory play that they teach to each client.  A simple task, for example, taking marbles out of one bucket and placing those marbles into another bucket would be easy for a person like you and me, but for people with developmental disabilities, it could take a year to learn.  I could see the excitement in their faces once they got that task accomplished and in Debby’s face on getting to witness their accomplishments.  I believe it is rewarding when you can simply see the smile on their faces light up.  After sensory play, we got a break and watched The Price is Right, which they really love to watch them spin the wheel.  They love to pretend that they are spinning the wheel and call out the numbers for the right price.  Before I knew it, it was time to go to lunch.  Overall, I believed I learn more from them than they did from me. Just because they have a disability does not mean they are incapable of doing a simple task, they just need the extra guidance to help keep them be independent. I really give credit to the staff because it takes a lot of time and patience to work with their clients on day to day tasks.  Once you take the time to be positive and get out of your comfort zone anything is possible.

photo (3)

I am truly blessed to know that Memphis SRVS “serves” people no matter what the disability.  This is a very happy place to go to if you ever get the opportunity.  Before coming to SRVS, when I would be out in public and see a person with a disability I would try to avoid them.  I know that was wrong.  We are all God’s children and deserved to be loved and treated with respect.  Just because a person might be different does not mean we should treat them different.  As it says in the Bible, “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.”  Bottom line; do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  You never know what might be in store for you.

photo (7)

 

——————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

———————————————————————————————————————————

———————————————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

———————————————————————————————————————————

———————————————————————————————————————————

Day 3: Jenn at Alzheimer’s Day Services & SRVS

IMG_1068

My dog, JoJo, accompanied me on Day Three of my Volunteer Odyssey adventure.

IMG_0996

He’s an 8-year-old Pug who is basically my child.  He thinks he’s human and never meets a stranger, but couldn’t care less about other dogs. The vet has told us he needs to lose a few pounds and get more exercise.  I think his friendly but lazy attitude made him a pretty good fit for today’s visits.

Our first stop was at Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis. This time I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, though I was surprised to learn ADS is celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year.

They’ve been around since 1983. They offer assistance to family members struggling to provide around-the-clock care by giving those with the disease a safe and stimulating place to spend the day.  I suppose the number of aging baby boomers has brought more attention to Alzheimer’s and dementia in general.

JoJo was a hit with the office staff and had to meet everyone.  Jon, the Development Director, showed JoJo and I around and introduced us to lots of new friends. That’s what ADS prefers to call those in their Day Program. There were tons of activities with most everyone divided into small groups. The dog lovers stood out immediately.

IMG_1068

JoJo got along particularly well with a gentleman who had German Shepherds when he was younger. JoJo definitely brightened his day and, according to the staff, made him more talkative and animated than usual.

Our second stop of the day was at SRVS, the largest provider for people with disabilities in the Mid-South.  Again, JoJo was a hit with staff members.  Apparently I’m not the only one who finds his heavy breathing and smushed face endearing and irresistible.

He was moving slowly through the halls and just collapsed onto his big belly when we entered the first room in the Learning Center to meet people. Turned out that his lazy, laid back attitude was perfect.

Trevor and JoJo

Trevor and JoJo

Billy and JoJo

Billy and JoJo

Lots of folks came right up to meet and pet him. He loved the attention. Allison, the Volunteer and Activities Coordinator who accompanied us, got lots of requests for pictures.

Carl with JoJo and me

Carl with JoJo and me

I think it’s amazing how something as simple as a short visit from a pet can brighten someone’s day.  One of the big things I’m learning this week is that it really doesn’t take much to make someone’s day a little better in some small way. I think I’ve smiled more in the last three days than I did in the last three months. Sometimes I feel a little guilty because I think I’m getting more out of this Volunteer Odyssey than I’m putting into it, but then I remember that I’m never the only one smiling.

Rebecca and JoJo

Rebecca and JoJo

Barbara and JoJo

Barbara and JoJo

I’m searching for a job where I can transition from working in news to using my skills in PR, Social Media, and Marketing.  If you know of a great fit, please send it my way: jennallmon@gmail.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————
If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!
—————————————————————————————————————————————
Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!
—————————————————————————————————————————————

Week 13, Day 1: Adriene at SRVS

1174702_555035397891239_214391987_n
1174702_555035397891239_214391987_n

Mick offering pet therapy at SRVS

For as long as I recall, I’ve wanted to take my fiancé’s family dog Mick to serve as a therapy dog. He is a 13 year old Australian Shepherd, and he’s been “my dog” too, for almost 9 years. Even in his older age, he is the most sweet and loveable dog I know, carrying a gentle temperament and making everyone he meets smile. I was so excited that for my first day of my Odyssey week, I got the opportunity to make a dream become reality! With his head out the window, Mick and I traveled to SRVS (pronounced serves), a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of those with disabilities through a variety of learning programs and services. SRVS has been around for almost 51 years, but just moved into a brand new facility. What an awesome, bright space. Upon arriving I met Allison, the volunteer coordinator. I loved learning that she was once a volunteer at SRVS (for a year and a half), and has since been able to become an employee. I could sense how much she loves her job, and I clearly saw why. It seems like such a fulfilling place to work. And I love hearing that giving back through volunteer work can reap some amazing rewards like that.

969417_555035491224563_836937585_n

Mick’s first classroom visit at SRVS

As we entered the first hallway, Mick immediately got smiles and pets from people walking by us. Some were reserved at first, but I assured them he is nothing but sweet and accepting of everyone. Allison then took me to one of the learning classrooms, and we were greeted by a small group of adults. They lit up immediately when we arrived, asking lots of questions about Mick. They learned his name, age, and that he loves treats! Deciding that we needed more room, we all headed out to the sensory garden, a nice space with flowers, benches, and tables. On the way out, Rebecca ran from her classroom seeing there was a dog and asked if she could hold the leash and walk him outside. Of course! We spent about 15 minutes in the garden, letting Mick greet everyone before heading back indoors. Rebecca stayed by our side for most of this time, and I could tell she was very fond of Mick. She gave him lots of sweet hugs.

1146465_555035514557894_1474868994_n

Tony and Mick in the sensory garden at SRVS

1173619_555035431224569_835606591_n

Rebecca giving Mick sweet hugs at SRVS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we visited more classrooms, I got a glimpse of a variety of activities that happen at SRVS; Puzzles, crafts, and games filled all the tables and the shelves, and each room held something new. SRVS is the first facility in the nation to use Montessori learning activities for adults with disabilities. It was neat to see everyone working on their own unique activity and going at their own pace, and all invested in what they were doing. Mick got a quick smile and touch by everyone before they all returned happily to their learning activity. As Mick began to get tired (he is 13 after all), Allison kindly showed me a few extra spaces in the center: a gathering room with a stage, a learning room with a state-of-the-art smart board, a physical therapy room, and a music therapy room with drums. I also learned that they are having a pep rally this Friday. It truly looks like they have created an inspirational space for individuals to live up to their full potential and have lots of fun – who can say no to that?!

1102639_555038897890889_1085753770_o

Hanging out in the sensory garden at SRVS

 

I was amazed at every turn at SRVS. They have built not only a place for those with disabilities to come to learn and grow, but a place for them to feel at home. Love flows through the walls there! I am excited to hear of all Allison’s plans for future activities and hope I can be a part of them. So many ideas popped into my head during my visit. I envision craft days, helping with events, and maybe even a hula hooping class. Allison was very welcoming to these ideas. She is in the process of creating a volunteer program, and invites those interested to come by and participate with these heart-warming individuals. There are so many opportunities to help, even if you are unsure what activity might suit you best. I am so thankful for the opportunity to now know this place exists. It already has a special place in my heart. And I am happy my favorite pup got to visit with me.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in community outreach, empowering people through movement and education. If you know of a great fit, please send it my way: AdrieneHoops@gmail.com

~Adriene

—————————————————————————————————————————————
If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!
—————————————————————————————————————————————
Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!
—————————————————————————————————————————————

Week 12, Day 2: Michael Garcia at SRVS Learning Center

Michael helps Earnest with a puzzle at the SRVS Learning Center.

Today I was in familiar territory when I volunteered at the SRVS Learning Center. SRVS stands for Shelby Residential and Vocational Services, but everyone refers to as “serves”. Since 1962, it has provided a range of services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including employment and residential services for their clients. Due to my past experience teaching children with special needs when I worked as a substitute teacher, I am familiar with working with individuals with such needs and have found it very rewarding. Although such students can be very challenging, when they display progress it makes all the work totally worth the effort.

Upon my arrival at SRVS, I was met by Allison, the volunteer coordinator for SRVS. We started off with a tour of the Learning Center facilities, which were impressive. The Learning Center moved into its current building only about a year ago, and the new facilities include numerous classrooms, a kitchen, library/computer room, model apartment, music room, theater stage, and a kiln. (There currently isn’t anyone at the SRVS Learning Center who knows how to use a kiln, but if any readers know how, or knows someone who does, and are willing to help, please contact the SRVS Learning Center.) The library/computer room is equipped with a SmartBoard, a piece of technology I really appreciate. It’s like a whiteboard, but it can also be used like a giant computer monitor, presenting whatever is on the teacher’s computer to the whole class, and it is touch sensitive. I have enjoyed using them as a teacher, and I wish that they had been invented when I was a student. No more cleaning chalkboards and dusting erasers. SmartBoards are particularly useful at SRVS because they provide excellent interactive activities for the SRVS clients.

Another feature of the Learning Center that stood out to me was the classroom design. The Learning Center uses a Montessori style curriculum, which is student lead. The classrooms have open shelves with various objects on them. Students follow their own interest and choose what activities they want to do and work at their own pace. This particular style of learning is apparently quite effective with the clients at the SRVS Learning Center.

After the tour, Allison placed me with one of the Learning Center groups, which consisted of Pam, Rosalyn, Patrick, Danita, Lee, and Precious. We decided that I would help them with some kitchen activities. I was happy to participate because I love being in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and eating. Today we made chocolate chip mini-muffins. We used one of those mixes that comes in a plastic bottle and all you do is add water, shake it up, pour it into a muffin pan and stick it in the oven. I helped everyone in the group have a turn shaking the bottle and pouring the mix. The muffins came out great and were ready just in time for the mid-morning snack.

Michael helps Patrick pour the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael helps Patrick pour the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael demonstrates how to make muffins in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael demonstrates how to make muffins in the SRVS Learning Center kitchen.

Michael helps Rosalyn make the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center Kitchen.

Michael helps Rosalyn make the muffin mix in the SRVS Learning Center Kitchen.

When we were done in the kitchen, I joined a different group in one of the classrooms and worked one on one with Earnest, who I discovered to be a mischievous fellow. He likes to tease the others in his group. I helped him work on a jigsaw puzzle and we were able to finish in time for lunch. I joined Earnest and his group on their lunch break, and that’s when I learned how mischievous he could be. He tried to trick me into doing things for him that he is perfectly capable of doing himself and is encouraged to do so by the staff of the Learning Center, like opening sandwich bags and getting a straw. I was told Earnest likes to try such ploys on new staff and volunteers. I am familiar with such tactics from my experience as a substitute teacher. So, along with some help from the regular staff, I was able to see through Earnest’s ruse, but I hold no grudge.

Michael helps Earnest with a puzzle at the SRVS Learning Center.

Michael helps Earnest with a puzzle at the SRVS Learning Center.

 

I find working with people like Earnest rewarding because although he may be clever and cheeky, Earnest lives up to his name. He communicates with almost total honesty and sincerity. Another reason I enjoyed working with the clients at the SRVS Learning Center is their smiles, which are very serene. Aside from Earnest and his colleagues, I have only ever seen such serene smiles on Buddhist monks. It makes me wonder what they know that I don’t.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

My profile pages:
LinkedIn
Academia.edu

—————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

 

—————————————————————————————————————————

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

—————————————————————————————————————————— —————————————————————————————————————————

Week 11, Day 4: Ann-Katherine at SRVS

photo 3 (2)

I’m still smiling about my wonderful day at Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (commonly known as SRVS).  SRVS is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services for individuals with disabilities and their families.  Some individuals live at home and just go to SRVS during the day.  Some live in residential homes (run by SRVS) with other disabled individuals and a staff member who assists them.  SRVS is available for all ages, but most are middle-aged due to the fact they can go to public high schools until they are 22.  They offer a variety of programs such as employment training, family support, clinical services, and community living.

photo 3 (2)photo 1 (2)

As soon as Julie and I sat down with our first group of friends, we knew it was going to be a great day.  We helped the volunteer coordinator, Allison, with her art class who was painting coffee cups to be sold at the Germantown Festival in September.  Each cup would be baked (to set the paint) and a tag would be attached with the picture and name of the person who painted it. So cool! When a few friends were done painting, they started working on little bead projects that were very time consuming.  My new friend LaQuita reminded me multiple times that it was going to take us forever to finish hers.  Julie and her friend Tommy were working on one as well and they were having just as difficult of a time getting their beads to stay on the board.  When we finally finished, Allison placed wax paper over them and ironed them until the beads melted together.  LaQuita had hers made into a necklace, and Tommy’s became a keychain.  Although they took forever to complete, the outcome turned out great!  They were very proud to show off their melted bead projects when we ran into them again at lunch.

photo 1 (3)

After art, Julie and I joined in on a class in the Learn Center.  I sat with a young man named Clifton, and he seriously made my day.  He immediately stated that we would be best friends and expressed to me how much he loves Mountain Dew.  He was pretty disappointed to hear that I was not a Mountain Dew lover like he was.  He had been in the process of writing a story about a snapping turtle when I arrived, so we finished up the story and drew a few pictures to go along with it.  I could have chatted with Clifton all day long.  He was so full of expression and really just loves everyone.  Before he headed to lunch, he reminded me that I was his best friend and then gave me a hug.

998587_10101632954543075_774809936_n photo 2 (3)

We then moved on to help another class that appeared to have friends with more severe disabilities than the last class.  I helped my new friend Ernest finish a puzzle while Julie helped her friend Richard string some pasta-shaped beads onto string.  Both Ernest and Richard amazed me.  They were so quiet and pensive when they were doing an activity, but then they would become so full of life with smiles and laughs whenever they found something funny.  Neither of them were very verbal and both had difficulty with hand coordination and walking, yet they seemed so happy to be spending the day with their friends.  We followed the class to lunch before moving on to the teaching kitchen.

In the teaching kitchen, we met back up with our friends from art class and watched them make chocolate chip muffins.  The kitchen has an area with a stove and oven that is surrounded by counter space where everyone can participate in meal preparation and cooking.  Each of our friends got to pour water into the muffin mix, shake the container with all the ingredients, spray the muffin sheet, and pour the batter.  Tomorrow they get to eat the muffins for snack!

painting

I could go on and on about my day at SRVS because I really just loved it that much.  It truly is a wonderful place and it makes me SO happy to know it exists.  Families of individuals with special needs go through many moments of stress and anxiety over the years.  There are so many factors to be considered that most families never think much about: What schools have a special ed program? Will they have the ability to work? Will they live with me forever? What happens when I’m gone? Do I ever get a break? I’ve worked with a girl with special needs named Annie for about two and a half years; helping teach her new communication skills and providing her parents with respite care when needed.  One of her mom’s big questions is what will Annie do when she finishes high school in a few years.  Spending the day at SRVS made me so excited about the possibility of Annie being a part of their program in the future.  These families want to know that their loved one is being cared for, learning new things, and feeling happy.  At SRVS they are just that! I definitely plan to return to SRVS in the near future when I can.

What I learned about myself today: I LOVE the special needs population.  I actually already knew that about myself, but this experience just affirmed those feelings.  They have hearts of gold and so much love to give.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!
—————————————————————————————————————————————————
Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!
——————————————————————————————————————————————————
——————————————————————————————————————————————————