April 1, 2013
Back to help clean again. Today was a bit different, I saw more guests of the Ronald McDonald House. Several women who were all new mothers a few accompanied by the fathers, all coming and going throughout the day to visit their premature infants at a nearby hospital. Though our meetings were very brief I noted differences and similarities in each. Diversity is is abundance at the Ronald McDonald House. The patrons range in age, race, beliefs and gender. Yet the similarity is they are all in this place for one reason, to be closer to their child. I only met the parents of infants but the staff at the RMH say they see parents and families of children that are treated for a wide arrange of illnesses and range in ages from infants to teenagers.
In my Contemporary Topics in Nursing course we learned about diversity which I mentioned above but also vulnerable populations which can be defined as either 'those who are relatively or absolutely incapable of protecting their own interests' or 'those that are exposed to something injurious or undesirable.' The families that stay at the RMH would fit into vulnerable populations because of the situations they are facing. They have been exposed to illnesses that they cannot get away from. The majority that stay are from working class or poverty level. They are just trying to make ends meet regularly and now have an ill child also. Many of these families lead separate lives. Dad stays to work and care for any other children at home while mom stays with the hospitalized child. The RMH makes it a little easier for this population to stay close to the child in the hospital. The affordability (less than a hotel) and the stress of not having to drive back and forth for visits is eased because of the proximity of the House to the hospitals. These families have many of the aspects from the vulnerable populations that were discussed in my class yet until I thought about what they are going through did I come to think of them as a vulnerable population. Volunteering with this group made it clearer what vulnerable populations are and I could see the challenges and difficulties that they face.
"How ought we to live?" The Regis mission statement is lived by the staff of the Ronald McDonald House. They live to serve. Very few of the positions are paid and they rely on volunteers and donations to keep everything running. Because of the nature of what the RMH does, it has no lack of either volunteers or donations. While cleaning today I noticed a couple brought in hand-made wooden toys for each child (those ill and any siblings) staying at the House. This couple is retired and now spends all their free time either volunteering at the House or making toys for the guests. Another example of service is the passes that the parents can get at anytime to take the whole family to the Denver Zoo, the Museum of Natural History or the Denver Aquarium, all free of charge. Anything to make these families lives just a little better at this time. I don't know that I saw any differences between the mission statement and the service that the RMH offers.
By doing this service I have learned that I want to help more. I don't mind cleaning and everyone was very appreciative that I was there but I want a more direct face to face type of volunteer opportunity. I hope that I can train with the RMH and the neighboring hospitals and begin to help out in the family rooms where I can actually interact with the families and the ill children. What all of the staff and volunteers do at the House is such an example of not just the kindness that they show but the attitude in which they do it. They are so happy and helpful. Sometimes while nursing I get frustrated and cranky because of the stress levels and I know that is not what my patients need. They don't want to be in the hospital. If I can remember that and keep a happier attitude while I am nursing maybe it will make my patients stays a little bit better too. The parents I saw have a strength that I don't know that I posess. Raising kids is hard enough, I don't know how I would handle it if they were ill. These parents were very pleasant and calm, I have a feeling I would not be so put together. Hopefully I will never face this challenge but if I do I hope to have the strength that these parents and families have.
The only thing I would have changed about this Service Learning experience is to have started it sooner and perhaps done the training so that I could have helped out more than just the cleaning. I hope that my service helped, it did leave the House cleaner which I know that the families appreciate. By doing the small tasks I helped families spend more time with their loved ones and gave them a nice, clean space to come 'home' to if only for a little while.
P.S. Does anyone know how to clean plexi-glass?? I love the little hand prints and 'kisses' on all the 3rd story plexi-glass but they want it cleaned. Windex and other glass cleaners leave smudges all over it. Any ideas or comments would be great.