Here's what volunteering at a hospital is really like. And why you should do it.
True
Clorox

Have you ever considered volunteering at a hospital? It's an important job that's often overlooked.

Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via WikiCommons.

When you think about the work done at hospitals and other care facilities, visions of doctors and nurses are probably first to come to mind. While these healthcare professionals do some of the most important work on the planet (and that's no overstatement), volunteers are an integral part of the hospital's ecosystem as well.


Volunteers greet visitors, run groups, provide support to patients, wash and change linens, clean rooms, restock supplies and help ensure that the hospital is running cleanly and smoothly so that those providing medical care can focus on the patient's physical health and continued well-being.

In short, volunteers are vital. They form real and lasting connections with patients, and help them get better in a clean, comforting environment.

We talked to three people to get their take on what it's like to work in care facilities, the challenges they've faced, and what the work they did taught them about themselves (and it taught them a lot). Read on to find out more.

Alia read to kids at her local hospital. It made her realize the difference a bedtime story could make.

Photo by Juhan Sonin via Flickr.

When she gave birth at 17, Alia was grateful that her child was strong and healthy. At the same time, she realized that other new parents weren't living that same experience.

"The idea that other families didn't have that really pained me," she writes in an email. I wanted to help them."

Alia would put her son to bed and then, when he was asleep and safely being looked after, drive to Fresno Children's Hospital, where she'd read bedtime stories to children who didn't have company and couldn't sleep at night. She expected the work to make her emotional, but was not at all prepared for the impact it ended up having on her.

"I would cry in my car after all of my shifts," she explains. "I wasn't equipped for the emotional weight of children with poor health. I have the utmost respect for people who can bear that weight comfortably."

It also taught her just how needed volunteers are. They're the people who fill in the gaps in care, fostering close connections with patients who are going through some of the hardest days and nights of their lives.

"I wish people knew how much need there is," she writes. "Walking those empty halls at night, you look into rooms and see people who are scared, lonely, and bored. A few more people in the hall making their way to connect with patients is a huge difference."

"I found the experience rewarding in a lot of capacities. The largest is probably the degree to which it taught me about myself. I valued my son and his health so much. I learned about my emotional limits. And I felt good because I was helping others."

Author Chuck Miceli helped people living in a long-term care facilities express themselves.

Photo by Elien Dumon on Unsplash

He co-coordinated a weekly Poetry group for patients and residents at the Southington Care Center, a rehabilitation and health care facility in Southington Connecticut.

In the group, the residents of the center were encouraged to write and share their own poetry, bring in poems that they enjoyed by their favorite authors, or just sit and listen to the work written by people who also lived there. For many, it was a watershed moment in their recovery. It provided a sense of purpose for one resident in particular — allowing her to see that she was still valued and needed.

"A friend of mine approached me to say that a mutual friend from our church, Joan LaRose, was at the facility," Chuck writes. "I hadn't seen her in years. Now, she was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and could not lift her head from her chest, but she still expended the time and effort to write poetry."

"I visited Joan and asked to see her poems. Rather than being bitter or remorseful, they were exceptionally uplifting and beautiful. That motivated me to see if others at the facility might also want to get involved, which prompted the creation of the poetry group."

The group eventually grew and Joan's poems were collected and published in a book that keeps her memory alive. The poetry group is something Chuck reflects on as one of the most positive experiences of his life. It's a reminder of the indomitableness of the human spirit.

"Walking into a nursing or health care facilities can be an intimidating and depressing experience because it is so easy to assume the hopelessness of people's situations," he explains. "It is easy to see what is missing: the physicality, the youthfulness, the mobility, the energy. It is what we don't see, however, that is most important: the potential, the desire to be useful, the lifetime of experience and wisdom, the yearning to be involved."

"Tapping into what's possible instead of being debilitated by what's missing is at once the greatest challenge and the greatest reward."

Jeaninne Escallier Kato, a teacher and writer, volunteered at hospitals during two points in her life. It taught her to think on her feet and let go of her ego.

Photo by Lenny DiFranza via Flickr.

"I have volunteered in hospitals twice in my life," notes Jeaninne. "My volunteer duties included: distributing food and books, feeding patients, teaching and reading to children, managing the play room and holding babies."

"It is all about patient care and compassion. When I was given the task to teach a bedridden child with extreme mental disabilities, I didn't feel like I could handle my emotions. Over time, I let my compassionate nature take over and began to feel the bonds of a strong relationship. That child was so appreciative of my time and attention once a week for three hours, I couldn't wait to get my Saturday hug."

"There's nothing like the feeling of making others comfortable and giving relief. It's another form of love. My advice to those who are considering this line of work is you have to take your ego out of everything because you will be asked to do some very disagreeable tasks."

"Don't do it for you, do it for others. You will soon learn your merit, which resides in the care and love you give freely, because it always comes back two-fold."

Caring for others in need is something we should all make more of an effort to focus on.

Providing comfort to those going through medical difficulties is one of the best ways to help make the world, a brighter, safer, happier place.

So, if you've been thinking of volunteering at a hospital, but had reservation, now might be the time to reconsider. You have no idea how much your efforts will mean to the patients you meet.

Clorox is committed to providing a gentle yet powerful clean, which is why they've partnered with Upworthy to promote those same traits in people, actions and ideas. Cleaning up and strength are important aspects of many of our social good stories. Check out the rest in the campaign to read more.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the pandemic, you'd think people would have the basics figured out. Sure, there was some confusion in the beginning as to whether or not masks were going to help, but that was months ago (which might as well be years in pandemic time). Plenty of studies have shown that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus and public health officials say universal masking is one of the keys to being able to safely resume some normal activities.

Normal activities include things like getting a coffee at Starbucks, but a viral video of a barista's encounter with an anti-masker shows why the U.S. will likely be living in the worst of both worlds—massive spread and economic woe—for the foreseeable future.

Alex Beckom works at a Starbucks in Santee, California and shared a video taken after a woman pulled down her "Trump 2020" mask to ask the 19-year-old barista a question, pulled it back up when the barista asked her to, then pulled it down again.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

When you picture a ballerina, you may not picture someone who looks like Lizzy Howell. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Howell is busting stereotypes and challenging people's ideas of what a dancer should look like just by being herself and doing her thing in her own body. The now-19-year-old from Delaware has been dancing since she was five and has performed in venues around the world, including Eurovision 2019. She has won scholarships and trains up to four hours a day to perfect her skills in various styles of dance.

Jordan Matter Photography shared a documentary video about Howell on Facebook—part of his "Unstoppable" series—that has inspired thousands. In it, we get to see Howell's impressive moves and clear love of the art form. Howell shares parts of her life story, including the loss of her mother in a car accident when she was little and how she was raised by a supportive aunt who helped her pursue her dance ambitions. She also explained how she's had to deal with hate comments and bullying from people who judge her based on her appearance.

"I don't think it's right for people to judge off of one thing," Howell says in the video. And she's right—her size is just one thing.

Keep Reading Show less