Ali Azarvan volunteered for 25 local non profits in May and shares his chronicles:
Forgive me for directly quoting their website – but I found this to be beautiful and 100% true:
“The grief, fear, and despair that people so often experience when faced with a serious illness or injury – when facing their mortality – is not a medical problem, and it has no medical solution. There is no pill or medical treatment for such deep emotional suffering, such soul pain. It is a human problem and the only solution is human contact, with someone who cares, listens, and connects at a deeply heartfelt level”.
The 2nd aspect of this great charity is to cultivate compassion in health care – their goal is to give those in health care (both volunteers and professionals) the inspiration, skills, and materials the need to the compassion that is integral to great health care. This is near and dear to my heart as we (my wife and I) just recently had a TERRIBLE experience at a hospital down in LA (I will not name them as I don’t want to unfairly bash an institution for 1 particular doctor’s actions). Long story, short – we had a major health scare with our baby boy. After 24 hours of EEG monitoring, the attending physician greeted us with a “let me guess, you’re first time parents” followed by a grating chuckle.
I’m not a violent man – but I had some terrible thoughts after hearing that. My wife and I had been through hell over the last few weeks due to some episodes our child was consistently displaying and the doctor’s first reaction was the most dismissive / insulting thing I’ve heard in a very long time (we soon found out from another physician that we were right in worrying but, thankfully, all was well with our baby). Moral of the story – we would have had a much better experience had that physician attended one of the Adventures in Caring seminars or read through some of their materials.
And here’s what’s most brilliant about this nonprofit – most of their volunteers are Pre-Med UCSB students – the same students that will become tomorrow’s nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and hospital administrators. Think about that. They will learn how to fix the body at med school – they will learn how to be compassionate humans through Adventures in Caring. Such a great concept.
In talking with Shelley, I heard something that is very telling of the success that they have experienced:
Volunteers commit to volunteering once a week for 2 hours and for a school year. I have been lucky to get the majority of my volunteers in their first or second year and they go the full 3-4 years with me. The emotional maturity and growth is incredible. I have witnessed their growth from being a shy, unsure freshman, to a very confident, loving, caring person who wants to make a difference in health care. I have been doing this for 10 years so I have seen volunteers in undergrad and have followed them through med school, starting their careers, getting married and having children”.
What this tells me is that “Adventures” has figured out how to eliminate one of the biggest problems I’ve seen throughout my May Days campaign – volunteer turnover. With many of the charities I worked with, I noticed an alarming trend- volunteers would stop showing up after a couple of visits. As with any business, consistency is important – and Adventures has it figured out.
As with most nonprofits, they will take anyone who wants to volunteer, right? Nope. They screen, interview, and train each volunteer – and I’m not talking about a quick “hey, here’s what to do and here’s what not to do” – I’m talking about a 22 hour thorough training. “Adventures” invests a lot into each volunteer because they know that each volunteer will one day be manning the front lines of medicine.
Most people think that their job is to simply cheer people up or entertain them (they do, afterall, sport the cutest Raggedy Anne costumes while on duty) – while that is a bi-product, it’s not the main focus. “Our volunteers sit with them and allow them to talk about whatever it is they want to talk about. They are there to hold their hands, wipe away tears, give hugs – truly experiencing the moment with them. That’s why we call it an adventure – you never know what is going to happen that day or where the discussion will lead” Shelley explained.
This program has been so successful (it has been around for 30 years!) that other organizations have begun to ask them to teach their volunteers their secrets. So they created a 3 DVD series for Health Care professionals and volunteer organizations. They have actually just completed the 3rd DVD, “Oxygen for the Caregiver”, that will premiere on June 19th at 430 at the New Victoria theater. Very exciting stuff. . .