"The roots of our civilization lie not in material possessions or monetary worth, but in the principle that one volunteer, one act at a time, can make a huge impact."
When he was 15, Aman Prasad volunteered for one year at a large hospital, working in areas ranging from the emergency department to the discharge desk. Many hospitals offer volunteer opportunities for all ages and interests. It's also a great way to learn about different careers in the huge yet rapidly growing field of health care. If you're interested, call the hospital that interests you and ask for the Volunteer Office, or visit the hospital's Web site if it has one.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Aman: I volunteered for a year at a local, major hospital in Boise, Idaho.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Aman: St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Aman: My project was to volunteer in a variety of different patient/visitor care areas. I often moved from the Emergency Department to the discharge desk. The people who benefited most would have to be the patients and their families. The volunteers are often the first and last impression, and it is their charisma and willingness to help that greatly improves the mostly sterile, uninviting atmosphere of a hospital.
What inspired you to get involved?
Aman: As I child, I once spent a few very awkward and lonely days in a hospital. The bright spot of my visit was a person a bit older than I who would come in and read chapter books for several hours. As I was discharged from the hospital, I asked the nurse to thank the employee “reader”. She laughed and merely said he was a volunteer. I never forgot the word “volunteer” or what it meant as I grew up and matured. It finally became clear to me that volunteers like that reader, those who wish to do something only because they are motivated by the interest of others, truly keep our communities functioning. I realized I wanted to be a part of that community building.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Aman: I found out about the hospital volunteer program through a former volunteer who encouraged me to join. She had successfully graduated from the program only recently and presented both the pros and cons, allowing me to make a decision as I wished.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Aman: The greatest thing about my experience was close interaction I had with supervisors, doctors, nurses, support staff, patients and visitors. Being in such a position allowed me to truly understand the needs and emotions of the patients and also allowed me to develop ideas for improvement that I could relay back to my coordinator. Having communication at all levels of service was both fascinating and beneficial.
What is/was the hardest part?
Aman: The most challenging part of what I did was recognizing that not everybody was always at the same levels. Many a time I saw homeless patients as well as those who could not afford to pay. It was difficult trying to answer my own mental “Why them?” questions, but with each underprivileged person I saw, it made me want to work with a passion I had never known. In the end, I got over my own ignorance and naïveté and realized that no matter what class financially or socially, they were patrons, and it was my job to treat them that way.
What was the biggest surprise?
Aman: The biggest surprise came over a period of time as I realized I was being accepted and respected by the older professionals above me. As my relationship grew with all employees at all levels, a silent trust was built. Just as with any profession, gaining the respect and trust of those above you enhances the experience. At a teenage level, however, the trust built by these relationships also positively develops your maturity and your ability to handle responsibility. This was the case with me.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Aman: Overall, I’ve learned many useful and meaningful things as a result of my experience. Several of those things have truly shaped who I am today. I know now never to leave anybody behind as a result of discrimination in any form. I’ve learned that, whether the situation is a personal failure or a personal best, you always gain more than you seek. And lastly, I’ve learned that to work in a team effectively, you have to want to accomplish something not for yourself but for the greater good. As a result of these new skills, I feel I have truly balanced my personality and my communication skills.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Aman: Historically, man is at his best when he is alongside his peers, helping others. We have a duty, as youth and adults, not only to help those less fortunate or in need but to help those in our community at every level. Nothing on this planet is more rewarding than being able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you have truly accomplished something for all of society to share in. The roots of our civilization lie not in material possessions or monetary worth, but in the principle that one volunteer, one act at a time, can make a huge impact. To those who are considering volunteering, look not at what you can get but what you can gain, for the true difference between the two will become evidently clear as you volunteer.
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