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.

[rebelmouse-image 19534869 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via WikiCommons." expand=1]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.

[rebelmouse-image 19534870 dam="1" original_size="750x563" caption="Photo by Juhan Sonin via Flickr." expand=1]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.

[rebelmouse-image 19534871 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="Photo by Elien Dumon on Unsplash" expand=1]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.

[rebelmouse-image 19534872 dam="1" original_size="750x563" caption="Photo by Lenny DiFranza via Flickr." expand=1]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.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

More

The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

An assignment on the Trail of Tears has prompted debate about taking historical perspectives.

Helping young people understand the causes and effects of historical events is a formidable task for any educator. History isn't just "what happened and when." There's also a "why," "how" and "who" in every historical happening, and quality history education helps students explore those questions.

Sometimes, however, that exploration can go off the rails.

Most people would agree that understanding different perspectives is an important part of learning history, but there are more and less problematic ways of helping students gain that understanding. We've seen some of the more problematic methods pop up in school assignments before, from asking students to pick cotton like slaves to listing the pros and cons of slavery.

Now an assignment from a school in Georgia is making the rounds, with people calling out issues with the perspective it asked students to take.

Keep Reading Show less

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


Keep Reading Show less