My week started at Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS). I may have been the most nervous about this day. I started my day at SRVS around 9:00 in the morning, so the night before, and while getting ready I was pretty anxious. The disabled population is one I am not familiar with at all. I had so many thoughts running through my mind: Will they be comfortable around me? Will I be comfortable around them? Will I be able to understand them? Will I disrupt their schedule and upset them? All of these thoughts were put to rest as soon as I walked through the door. Everyone was welcoming with waves of hello, hugs, good morning, and introductions.
My first task of the morning was slightly daunting, due to the fact I know nothing about plants or planting. I can keep a bouquete of flowers alive for a few days, but can not arrange them or manage to cut them to the right size for a vase. My mom says gardening is therapeutic for her, and I just don’t get it. When I have attempted to plant or garden, I am awkward and worried about killing the fragile plants. I was asked to help plant some new flowers in their sensory garden and thought why not tackle one more thing I am unfamiliar with. We headed out with one of the classes that was taking place, I was surprised and amazed at how the recipients immediately got involved and wanted to show me the garden and what they were growing. The garden is full of flowers and plants (I will not even try to tell you what they are because I would embarrass myself). They had planter boxes of tomatoes, different types of peppers, cabbage, and herbs. (I know only this because they were labeled!) As I started to work, I noticed how independent the recipients are. They could be as hands on as they wanted to be or just watch the others. Each person worked together, sharing tools, but also picked out where they wanted to plant. I was most amazed by Chris, who is in a wheelchair, but does not limit himself because of his wheelchair. He immediately found some way to help out and began watering the plants as we got them in the ground. Another participant LaQuita, was wearing a very pretty blue dress and wanted to plant, but was also very demure in her way of planting. She asked for gloves so her hands would stay clean and also a smock to sit on, so she wouldn’t get her dress dirty. She also managed to sit very lady like the entire time! She was determined to help plant, but even more determined to stay clean!
Once we finished, we headed back inside, I got a quick tour of the learning center. I was amazed at all of the activity rooms and how bright and fun all the classrooms looked. The rooms were very inviting with art work on the walls and windows. Each of the rooms is also impeccably organized with activities in open boxes or trays to use at any time. They have an art center, music room, therapy room, media room, learning kitchen, and mock set up of a house. Everything here is to better mainstream the recipients in a safe learning facility.
I then headed to another classroom and went to the therapy room. The therapy room has some exercise equipment, such as a bike, treadmill, and small trampoline. It is a large room about half the size of a basketball court. It is open in the middle for individual games or group games, such as, bowling or the parachute. The therapy room even has a ball pit! The purpose it to get the recipients up and moving, but also to work on sensory skills. I played “catch” with two recipients who are completely different in terms of physical ability and verbal ability. Patrick and I played catch with velcro pads and a tennis ball, but this is more than just a game of catch. One of the staff members informed me that this helps with hand eye coordination and sensory skills. She also told me that although Patrick could not verbally communicate with me, he understood everything I was saying to him. He answered to his name and even posed for a picture. I also played a game of catch with Precious, whose smile can light of a room. We played her favorite game, which she is very good at, and had me laughing and working hard to catch a small ball in my basket. I have a feeling if she was allowed to play this game all day she would!
Volunteering at SRVS could not have been a better start to my week. I left with a better understanding of this population and having made a few friends along the way. I hope to return soon!
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