Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taking Action in Somerville: Alon Slutzky '13

Tufts volunteers go "all hands in" at a nursing home in Somerville.
My name is Alon Slutzky, and this is my Repair the World story.  Two weeks ago a friend and I, with the help of about a dozen other students, visited a nearby nursing home in Somerville in order to help some of the residents celebrate their birthdays. The idea to organize the celebration arose out of a simple conversation with my friend Josh Malkin. The conversation started with us recounting the community service that we did during high school and the difficulty of finding constituent meaningful service to participate in at Tufts. We wanted to close that gap and proceeded to browse through some of the campus groups and the volunteer opportunities they offered. We both knew we were looking for something more personal than assisting with a fundraising drive and something more local than helping with an issue taking place half way the around. After a fruitless search for opportunities through existing organizations, a realization dawned on us. Do we need an existing organization to tell us what community service is available for us? Why can’t we organize something ourselves that is tailored specifically to the service we want to partake in? Although it would take some more work on our part, we agreed to do organize a community service project on our own. That is when we decided to visit the elderly community near Tufts.
Choosing a nursing home was not an arbitrary decision. When I was twelve years old my grandparents’ health deteriorated and they moved into a nursing home. Although my opinions have changed now, back then I was far from ecstatic about visiting them there. One day, before we went inside to see my grandparents, my mother sat me down and explained to me how hard her parents have worked in order to raise her and her two sisters. Now that my grandparents were reaching the end of their lives, it was our responsibility as a family to show them we haven’t forgotten them. After a number of visits to their nursing home it became clear to me that there were many residents whose family did indeed forget them. I saw residents who have not seen visitors in years. I understood the travesty of raising your children with love and attention only to be neglecting by your children when you need the love and attention in return. Out of this experience Josh and I decided to visit the elderly in around the Tufts community and remind them that we haven’t forgotten them.
 We reached out to Anchord an a Capella group on campus and asked them to provide the musical entertainment for the celebration. We also asked URAK(cleverly pronounced you-rock), the UnRandom Acts of Kindness club, to make birthday cards for the residents celebrating their birthdays’ that month. By word of mouth, and by spamming some elists we asked students to join us. The response was way more than we expected. What we thought would be a 3-4 person trip to the home for a short visit evolved into over a dozen people spending two hours with a roomful of residents singing songs together and swapping stories about the old days. The residents were happy to see us and we were amazed by how easy and simple it was to brighten their day. The nursing home contacted us the next day and asked us to come again as per the request of the residents. Also many of the students that came to the home asked if we can go back to visit.
The main lesson that I learned from this experience is that we all want to do good for the community, the tough part is figuring out how. As it turns out, all you need is a few like-minded friends and just enough drive to turn words into action. The other important lesson I learned from one of the residents who recently celebrated her 94th birthday is that no matter how old you get it never hurts to laugh.   
Anchord, the Tufts a cappella group, performs as students and residents look on. 

No comments:

Post a Comment