When I received the schedule for my Volunteer Odyssey week I immediately got a nervous knot in my stomach when I saw SRVS (pronounced serves). SRVS is the Shelby Residential and Vocational Services; they help adults with disabilities to be more independent. SRVS accomplishes this through classroom activities as well as hands on activities. I did not know many details about SRVS before today, and what I knew was from reading other blogs on Volunteer Odyssey. I had never worked with the disabled before, and I was very apprehensive to do so, because there was just so much that I did not know about those with disabilities. I did not know how they would react to me or if I would be able to effectively communicate with them. There were many details I was unsure of going into this experience.
I had no idea what to expect when I mapped out the address. I have known this area of South Memphis to be a fairly glum spot. When I arrived, the building was like the others in the neighborhood, brick and surrounded by a fence. As I pulled in a little before 9, I noticed two entrances. As it turns out, I picked the wrong one and came in the side entrance. To my surprise, a nice employee let me in, and sent me in the right direction. This turned out to be a happy accident because the office I needed to go to was right inside that door. Walking into SRVS was different from I had expected from the outside. On the contrary, it is bright and cheerful. I was drawn to some of the light panels that were made to look like clouds; immediately I knew this was a very happy place.
Allison, the volunteer coordinator, gave me a tour of SRVS and told the history, as well as the day-to-day functions of the students. She explained the way a typical day goes for a student at SRVS. Each day the students have goals, called outcomes, to meet with activities in each subject. When a student finishes these activities; they may choose other activities to complete, from the shelves in each classroom. In addition to these classroom activities, students rotate activities between: outings, music, movies, art, and physical therapy. Allison showed me the classrooms, and the music room, the model apartment, and the physical therapy room. In the music room, the students learn counting and other skills through drums and other instruments. In the model apartment the students learn life skills, and how to live independently. Inside the physical therapy room, students improve their motor skills with physical activity. They even have a ball pit! The last stop on the tour was the art studio. This is where Allison and I decided to start my time interacting with the students.
Allison gathered students from a couple of classes that were interested in doing arts and crafts. Before we knew it, we had two tables full. The students love to create. We worked on decorating cans covered in paper. Some students chose markers
At 10 am it was snack time, so we put the arts and crafts away and cleaned up. This was so the students could return to their classrooms and get their snacks. Then, Allison showed me to a classroom to have some one on one time with some students. Chris, who was so friendly and outgoing, and I worked on a matching game designed to help teach where sizes and shapes fit into a puzzle. After helping Chris, I worked with LaQuita on a puzzle. It was a 1,000-piece puzzle so it was pretty difficult. LaQuita already had several sections together before I arrived, so I helped matching pieces. LaQuita and I did not have time to finish the puzzle, because before we knew it, it was lunchtime. Lunch occurs in two groups at SRVS, one at 11 and the other group at 12; during lunchtime I went to another classroom.
This classroom had some senior students. I worked with a sweet older man named Oscar, on two games. The first, a matching game similar to Chris’s game, and one that involved scooping up balls from one basket and putting them into another basket. The scooping game helped to work on motion useful in everyday life. I noticed several variations of this game in each of the classrooms I went in. I also watched Hoda and Erica work on tangram games, where smaller shapes are used to make larger shapes, which I remember from elementary school. The closer the clock got to twelve the less the students wanted to participate in the games, because they were getting hungry. I understood that feeling; I was getting hungry as well. As they left for lunch, my time at SRVS was over.
I loved my time at SRVS. Although I was apprehensive at first, the students, teachers, and Allison, all made me feel at ease. The students were sweet, funny, and cheerful. The students all loved each other and their time at SRVS. Because of my time at SRVS, I feel like I am more comfortable around those with disabilities. I was really amazed at what a tremendous organization SRVS is. Not only does SRVS offer day services, but also has other divisions. Community Employment Services and SRVS Industries, Inc. help those with disabilities find employment. SRVS also has residential housing through SRVS Community Living; where individuals with disabilities can live together independently. I found that SRVS is a unique and wonderful place that enables those with disabilities to learn things and do things that they would not otherwise be able to do.