National Volunteer Week this year is April 12-18. There are so many ways our AgeCare Volunteers make a difference in the lives of our residents. Here is one such story…
She’s small in stature but her bright smile and boisterous spirit makes her presence feel exceedingly large. Every Friday afternoon you can find her at a busy Calgary nursing home, assisting with meals, conversing with residents, and casting a warm glow wherever she goes.
“Volunteering here is the highlight of my week,” says university student, Jenna. “I come here feeling literally depleted after my week of classes and I leave feeling filled up and full of gratitude.”
Jenna started volunteering at this residence two years ago after the sad passing of her treasured grandmother. The idea came to her one night as she indulged in her grandma’s favourite jam-jam cookies and watched a TV program on honouring your ancestors.
“I was missing Grammie so much, I found myself looking at every old person and longing to reach out and hug them,” said Jenna. “Rather than walk around wallowing in self-pity I thought to myself, ‘why not get out there and care for other people’s grandparents?’”
With her own grandmother Jenna had spent hours sifting through photos and helping her document life experiences and poignant memories. The visits were particularly meaningful for both of them. The thought occurred to Jenna that if these activities were meaningful for her Grandmother then others would likely benefit from similar experiences.
“My first few months here I would carry around a pen and paper and just offer to sit with residents who wanted to document some of their thoughts and life experiences,” said the budding writer. “It was easy to get them talking, all I had to do was look around at the pictures in their room and ask a few questions about the people in their lives.”
Before she knew it, there was a lineup of seniors who were eager to sit and chat with Jenna. With some she would write, with some she would read letters or chapters from a favourite book, and others just preferred to have tea and enjoy her bubbly company.
“This has been a perfect way for me to grieve and heal,” said Jenna. “It does my heart good just to be with seniors and if it brings them some measure of joy, then it’s a win-win, and Grammie would approve.”