The service site I had given service to last semester was at The Health Ambassadors center for those in need of long-term and intensive care. Individuals in this living community are typically in need of daily aid for day to day activities, being aided by nurses all day and evaluated by doctors. The population of the community living here at Health Ambassadors are typically the elderly and youth needing constant health support, most needing this support since the day they were born. Age groups are divided by age, my service being in the youth sector with age groups of babies to adolescence.
My role in my service for this amazing community center is providing simple social interaction and comfort to the kids in the youth sector. I go to my service site one a week for about two and a half to three hours of service every Saturday morning since the beginning of this spring semester. Coming in Saturday mornings hadn't initially seemed like a contributor to how deeply I appreciate this service at this site, but it has made me realize how this little choice of impact has helped me in my experience.
Saturday mornings aren't ideal for a college student to come in and do service, as admittedly most of go out or just stay up late on Friday nights, especially coming at a time where you surpass breakfast and lunch. However, as I came into every kid's room, or even into the kids' common area, the TVs were on. As a kid growing up, I remembered watching TV Saturday mornings while my family or I made breakfast, enjoying a relaxing morning before my exciting time going out to the park or playing in the street somewhere with my friends or family. However, I snapped out of that moment when a sense of realization came over me: these kids don't have a choice to go out, anywhere.
Kids get visited by their families and us volunteers on the weekends but that is there only source of social interaction, appreciated but not voluntary for these kids. Serving this site has really helped me find gratitude in my own daily given autonomy to live and make my own choices. At times, I know I take simple things for granted because I don't know or remember that certain aspects are privileges. Just as we learn in class, things like food or where we live, we take for granted as these are rights not everyone has, like impoverished countries or people forced to be refugees or asylees; I am very thankful for this weekly reminder of how lucky I am.
At the core of the service site, we don't always see or recognize a social concept or issue, especially at a service site so based off of daily health care and the "impaired" and "needy". But from my own encounters, I study and observe a implicit impact of the social concept of human dignity. The concept of human dignity is definitely not obvious, but I've noticed it as a social good here in this community, rather than a social problem. The kids are not the only part that makes up the whole community; a big part of how this community functions is obviously the nurses who help aid these kids everyday.
I have learned how much care and value these nurses work for these kids they call their own. I am amazed at what they do and how they do it with such ease, informing us about each individual child's pain. They know their individual kids fact by fact, how to exactly treat them, their dislikes and desires, and most importantly, how to communicate and encourage them. As we are taught about their conditions, we play, read, or interact with each child as comfortable with them.
Noticing little things like when I child likes when you sing to them, or dance for them because they can't, or read in silly voices to aid them with comfortable is simply so rewarding. However, I always try to treat them as an equal, or at least as equal as I'd treat a child their age outside of the center of living. Just like we had learned in our "reflection of a single story", we gain better insight at an equal interaction as it keeps you humble and better comforts these kids. Assuming kids with disabilities deserve to be socially treated dumb or with pity due to their need of physical accommodation is belittling.
These kids are strong from what I've learned about them, and they deserve nothing but respect as their physical situations do not define their worth. I am very humbled by the nurses who show me this behavior for as they know these kids' conditions better than I, yet they demonstrate a level of understanding of equality these kids deserve more. They talk to them throughout each process in a way that makes them laugh or smile and never argues with their kids in times of discretion, as they rather use communication and discipline. They show wonderful aspects that not only nurses should do, but us as human should do to others different than us.
As stated before, due to their physical conditions, there are plenty of limitations with the children due to their physical situations, but the number of accomplishments you feel for you and for the kids is an astounding amount in small ways. Situations when interacting with them through talk, music, or trying to educate them academically give light to little victories such as little head nods or head turns, moving or shaking their body, waving their arms, having them make facial expressions and getting them to speak to you. I, as well as my fellow friends and volunteers, feel so empowered and honored to have these kids interact with us through actions like this as we know they aren't as able to perform these actions that show involvement and excitement. It is harder for them to do many of natural daily actions and them to be willing to show it in ways harder on them and their bodies is something we should find fulfilling and thankful for.
Historically speaking, this population we work with would not have been able to get equal attention or fair treatment unfortunately. It pains me to think of how children born with different living abilities were seen as disposable in human history, ranging from public shame on families of those with children in these conditions to ordering the death of these children after they were born. The inner conflict of wanting the best for these kids stays prevalent in my mind as I serve due to me not knowing what truly is best for children in their conditions.
I definitely do not approve of deplorable social behavior and influence that would judge and hurt these kids and their loved ones for something they could not control. Choosing to manage the life of these children in wonderful and powerful to me as it is not only hard for the children but hard for their loved ones. As families visit, however, I see their devotion to the care of their special child, and how they work well with the workers who equally give it their all to care of each individual child. I struggle with the thought, among such an environment, on how I could ever be strong enough for such a task out of love. However, being around these kids only shows me exactly how every person involved with the children are able to keep going on their journey with these kids.
Being in such a loving and hardworking environment always makes this service easier, but does come with my own challenges with interacting with the kids. Desiring to do certain things other than what is able for each child is hard, you want to the best for this children as you get to know them more and more over the weeks you work and volunteer with them in the community. You struggle with realizing limitations you did not see for yourself, as I concluded before. However, dealing with reflections and conversations with fellow friends and volunteers about each day of service is different, with different struggles every time.
Hearing their stories not only informs you about them, but about a struggle we do not have to burden. It is the struggle of wanting something better for the one you care for, as neither they or you can change their situation. This is a struggle I still haven't overcome and possibly never will, and that is okay. The struggle doesn't get resolved but gets put to ease with comfort of knowing I can do all I can do and they can only do they're best as well.