moving AmeriCorps experiences
by Forwarded by Dr. Valentina Abordonado
One of the programs of AmeriCorps, the national service begun
by former President Bill Clinton, is a community HELP program
that allows students to earn education awards while serving
in the community. In addition to monetary stipends, according
to Dr. Valentina Abordonado, who supervises the program for
HPU, “Students gain awareness of community needs, build
friendships, and develop job skills.”
According to the following stories that Abordonado forwarded
to Kalamalama, they also gain some insight into themselves, and
the human heart.
|Working with terminally
ill cancer patients
During my first six months working in the AmeriCorps HELP program,
I had experiences that I would never have dreamed of having.
I provided end-of-life care to cancer patients. I discovered
that the end of life is not necessarily a time of bitter loss,
that it can also be a time of final serenity.
|I was let into the personal
world of the families of the dying and became, for a brief moment,
a part of those families, and I saw many of the patients I worked
with experience a sort of calmness about what their lives had
meant, to themselves and others. The most touching moment for
me was when I was caring for an older Hawaiian gentleman who
had a generosity of spirit that was almost palpable. He was a
man who had several different medical problems and had been in
the hospital for months; yet, when I came into the room, he always
greeted me with a smile and wanted to know how I was doing. During
my last night caring for him, he and his wife asked me to pray
with them. What did he pray for? Not himself. He prayed for me
to find the strength to make it through nursing school and for
his family to find the strength to carry on. Not a word for himself.
In that moment, I discovered a hero. He was not rich or famous,
but he had found peace in his life.
|Working with residents
of at a homeless shelter
The AmeriCorp HELP program has helped me to become more empathetic.
I find myself “putting myself in the other person’s
shoes.” A case in point was my interaction with “E,” a
resident at a homeless shelter. I had gone into the experience
thinking that all I needed to do was hand out supplies and food.
|He came up to me with
a wide and warm smile and asked me if I wanted to see what it
was like being homeless. “To help the homeless, you first
have to experience what it is like to be homeless,” he
said. These were prophetic words from a man I thought I was “serving.” E
demolished several of my stereotypes. He was articulate, warm,
and honest about his experiences on the street. He taught me
the value of looking at each person as a person and not labeling
them by stereotypes. Now, I find I constantly learn from the
people I serve.
|Tutoring children with
During the month of May, children are usually busy trying to
catch up on past assignments and earn extra credit to finish
off the school year. I helped three kids during this busy time
of year. Despite their problems, all three are amazing children,
and they all have special gifts.
|One of them, Tylor, is
8 years old and has ADHD (Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder); he finds it very difficult to
concentrate in math and reading because these require more time.
He had a large amount of overdue homework because he could not
finish it. He quickly got behind in math and reading, so the
teacher would send extra work home for him to do. Tylor is a
very smart child; he just has a very hard time concentrating
on his studies. Tutoring him was, at times, challenging. We worked
hard as a team to deal with his ADHD, and together we were able
to actually catch up on all his late assignments by May 20. When
his teacher sent home a note to his parents saying he had finally
caught up and that his grades had gone up, it felt so good! I
am glad that I did not give up on him because he never gave up.
Knowing that he could improve and that I could help was extremely
|Being a companion
I am in a senior companion program. Assigned a senior citizen
in need, I am expected to visit the senior two to four hours
a week, help them with basic needs, and provide companionship.
My senior was very pleasant and seemed to really enjoyed my
visits. It felt good to see her face light up when I would
show up. She was so happy to have some company. I learned a
lot about her past and met her family. In addition, she offered
me great advice about life. She had had a stroke, so getting
around was not an easy task for her. I would help her get in
and out of bed and apply lotion to her legs because she could
not reach them. She did not mind because we became friends.
I continued to visit her until February 2003, when she left
to live with her son and family in Alabama. I gave her a going
away present. I wish her the best of luck because she made
my volunteering so rewarding. Another rewarding experience
was spending time with cancer patients. It’s amazing
to see how strong and courageous they can be. Some of them
were very hopeful and some were very determined. I ran errands
for them, but my real job was to listen, listen, and listen
to their feelings. Their stories were amazing and the experience
was unique. I only hope I can be as brave as they are! This
experience truly touched my heart!
|To learn how you can participate
in AmeriCorps and other community service activities, call the
Teaching and Learning Center, 544-1143.