Time flies and it is our firm’s annual day of service to the community again! Since I had such a great experience last year, I chose to go back to the same nursing home to volunteer on September 30th. Here are the stories from a year ago: Part I; Part II.
We divided up into three groups for the morning session: group 1 to play Jeopardy and volleyball with the residents; group 2 to do gardening in the yard; and group 3 to paint walls of a hallway in the building. I participated the group 1 activities last year (see my previous posts) and had no green fingers whatsoever, so I joined the wall-painting group.
The tasks gave me a sense of accomplishment as the light green walls gradually disappeared under a new white coat. And I interacted with two residents. One was half sitting and half lying on a bed in his room, facing the door that was open to the hallway where we were painting. I said hi the first time I saw him, and he said it was really nice of us to do this. He watched us with interest and had a big smile on his face all the time. The other was a woman ‘walking’ her wheelchair – tapping her feet on the floor to move the wheelchair with her. She said “good job” the first time she passed through us, then she kept circling back, at least 5 times. I suspect she was walking laps as her morning exercises.
I went to the activity room where the volleyball game was taking place. I was so happy to see Edith and Jenny were still playing, at age 102 and 100 respectively. I didn’t see Ruth at first, then she came in just when I was asking about her. A few of us had a good chat. I asked “what book are you reading now?” She immediately reached behind her wheelchair and pulled out Dead Wake by Eric Larson. The staff there told me that Ruth is a World War II veteran, spoke five languages, and admired by grateful scientists and writers from Isaac Asimov to Carl Sagan during her years at Library of Congress. I was deeply awed once again.
After lunch, we cut colorful papers into flower/leave/pumpkin shapes for their holiday decorations. Some of my colleagues did more gardening, a few of them went around the hallways to update the bulletin boards, several girls did manicure for residents. Edith was very happy with her bright red nails. A lady with India origin got pink ones. She was okay at first but suddenly went into distress, mumbling in her native language. Luckily one of our volunteers knew the language and was able to speak with her and calmed her down. Good to have a diverse team!
It was a wonderful day. We interacted with residents and brought energy and fun into their lives; we got some tasks done that otherwise would have fallen on the shoulders of the staff; and we networked among ourselves, who are in various groups from different offices. EY Connect Day is such an inspiring event and I am proud to be part of it. Last year more than 16,600 EY volunteers logged over 105,000 hours across the Americas on this day, let’s see what the numbers are for this year!
Check here for Part I of the EY Connect Day.
On the day’s program there was “play volleyball with the residents”. For a crazy moment I had thought it would be real volleyball played by residents on one side and volunteers on the other side. Don’t laugh at me, sometimes I am just a bit scatterbrained.
A big area in the activity room was cleared and a net was set up. On one side, 4 residents in wheelchairs were parked in front of the net, including the eldest resident – 101-year-old Edith. The 5th place was a normal chair, occupied by the runner-up, 99-year-old Jenny, who was the only resident I saw that was not in a wheelchair. On the other side, 4 players in wheelchairs in their positions, with one player short. So a volunteer took the place sitting in a chair. The “volleyball” was a balloon bouncing back and forth across the net. Several of us stood behind the chairs to help bounce the ball back into the court when it flew above the players’ heads.
It was such a fun game! I was amazed by the reflexes demonstrated by these elders. They were focused, competitive, tried their best to hit the balloon over the net. Occasionally they missed and the balloon fell to the floor, then volleyball became soccer, they kicked it around until it floated again. One guy kept bouncing the balloon on his head and delivered some great shots – apparently he was a big soccer fan. The volunteer young man sitting in the chair kept wanting to stand up to save a ball but it wasn’t allowed. A staff commented “imagine you are restricted to the chair, with reduced eye sights and hearing, and with arthritis.” My respect for these high spirit players raised to a new level.
The game lasted for about 45 minutes, with a couple of substitute players. Edith and Jenny played the full game. Another lady sitting at a nearby table clapped her hands and knocked on the table to cheer the game on. I wish I had a photo to show the exciting scene, but we were not allowed to take pictures of the residents. Nonetheless, I will always remember this game and the impact it had on me.
To be continued…
For our firm’s annual day of service to the community, I chose to volunteer at a local nursing home together with twenty colleagues and spent a very memorable Friday. Telling all the stories will make this piece too long, so stay tuned for later posts.
While we were sitting around with some residents waiting for the Jeopardy Wii game to start, I chatted with an elderly lady next to me. Her name is Ruth. Below is part of our conversation:
I: “How long have you lived here?”
Ruth leaned towards me and whispered: “I don’t want to count.”
I: “Do you like watching Jeopardy on TV?”
I: “Do you know that nowadays computers can play this and win?”
Ruth: “Humans will become useless.”
I: “Machines are getting smarter, like in those science fictions.”
Ruth: “We can always smash them.” Arms raised followed by a “smashing” motion.
We both laughed.
I: “Do you watch movies?”
Ruth: “No, I have my books.” Like magic she reached behind and pulled a paperback from her wheelchair – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
I: “That’s great! I like reading books too!”
Ruth: “I don’t always remember what I read, so I can read the same book again and again.”
I smiled: “I am the same with movies.”
A staff came over and told me, “Ruth was a librarian for 44 years.”
I: “No wonder you read so much! Where?”
Ruth: “Library of Congress.”
I was awed immensely. The shock on my face made her very happy: “Yep, in all three buildings.”
The Jeopardy game started at this point, and Ruth was brilliant. She knew the answer to most of the questions. I was deeply humbled and really wished I had more time to talk to her. But she had a visitor and left the room. The next time I saw her was in the ‘volleyball’ game.
To be continued…