Travel Log 12 “Service” by Chris Wilner, London, England

On Saturday March 19, 2016, I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Older People Project at St. Luke’s church in Kentish Town, a borough of London. Once a month, usually on a Tuesday, members of the church organize a free lunch for the elderly who live in and around Kentish Town. There are around thirty members who normally go to these lunches and volunteers are encouraged to pull up a chair and spend time with the members. The organization wants the members to have an enjoyable experience every single time they are there. The members are quite elderly, isolated and usually either ill or disables. It is said that a result of this project is a lifeline for the members and they are very grateful.

This volunteering opportunity is not something that comes around very often as it is hard to organize an event that coordinates people from many different walks of life as well as people living in different arrangements and a multiplicity of ailments and conditions that may prove to be harder to deal with than expected. As much as you expect to be volunteering for this event because it is the thought that there is a lot to undertake for an ordeal like this, but I can assure you that this was probably the easiest task that I have undertaken. I thought I would be waiting on the members, running to get them coffee and tea as well as various snacks for them to enjoy, but it was quite the opposite. I can honestly say that they were not needy at all and all they were there for was an opportunity to get away from home, sit with their friends and catch up on some gossip. I think what the members really get out of this experience is another ear to listen as well as to learn something about a younger generation.

The key points that I will take away from this experience is the fact that older people are nothing but that, sure they may be old and some people may see them as needy, but we were also needy when we were children too. I think what I will remember the most is that it isn’t easy getting old, things start to stop working like your hearing or your memory, you are more susceptible to illness and the people you love either leave you because they lived long enough or they got sick and your family doesn’t have the time for you. All people want is to feel needed and through this experience the volunteers were able to give that to the members by allowing them the time to get to know them and the lives that they led. This experience changed who I am as an individual because it made me realize that the most important things in your life are the ones that you love and your health. I had the pleasure of talking to a woman named Patty who is ninety-three years old and I was astounded when she told me that. Not only did she not look her age, but also she didn’t act that way either. Talking with her, all I could think about were my grandparents and the conversations that I wish I could be having with them, not because they aren’t here anymore because they are but because I don’t speak to them as often as I should because I have a busy life but I know that they would like to hear about the things I’ve been doing. I guess this experience changed who I am because it made me realize that life is to short to worry about anything trivial like money and to focus on the people that may not be there tomorrow.

By partaking in this volunteer opportunity, I was able to see that through volunteering you are able to find yourself in another world that may not interact with the world in which you live. Volunteering gives you not only the opportunity to give back to the community but to get involved and maybe even make a difference in one person’s life whether it is big or small. I think by doing this volunteer experience I was able to learn a little bit more about the place that I am currently calling home from a generation that is very different from my own in the ways that they live their lives. Service work relates to the definition that we created as a class depicting the “Global Community” because it incorporates a shared living space with interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights. Service work is related to this because it always traces back to people. Whether the work has to do with the environment or animals, people are the ones who committed the act or are the ones dedicated to making the difference so the interdependentness makes it so that everyone is related in a sense.

The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.” –Richard Slimbach

old ladiesNot only does this picture depict the community service but also it incorporates the community that I serviced by partaking in this wonderful opportunity. I had the pleasure of spending a day with these ladies and getting to know them and the lives that they lead today as well as the lives that they left behind. The faces that you see in the image are faces that I will not forget because I was able to get to know their stories. They told me about the jobs that they held in the past, we talked about their families and even though it’s not polite to talk about it, we even talked about politics. The women that I spent the most time with, Patty, told me that our conversation was the most fun she had had in a long time and it was the most she had opened up to a person. The only thing she needed was an ear to listen and maybe someone to come up with some of the conversation topics, but I didn’t do anything special, I was just being myself and that’s and that was required. Service work doesn’t take much; it just takes one person willing to make a difference.

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One thought on “Travel Log 12 “Service” by Chris Wilner, London, England

  1. Hey Chris! It is so ironic that your service opportunity included interacting with elders. I, too, had a service experience that was similar in this way. I volunteered at the UNICEF headquarters, making dolls to sell and raise proceeds for vaccines for sick children in third-world countries. As much as this experience was for the children, there were expert doll-makers there to help us! Many of them ranged from 70-90, and having the opportunity to practice speaking Italian with them AND hearing their life stories were my fondest moments spent abroad. Like you, I learned so much about the importance of family, especially when it comes to cherishing those who only have so much time left. They are the beholders of tradition, and it is so important for the youth, like us, to take their wisdom and apply it to our own lives. So glad to hear this had such a positive impact on you as it did for me!

    Like

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