Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Helping Heal

Name: Stephanie Richard
From: Mesa, Arizona
Grade: College Sophomore
School: Mesa Community College
Votes: 15

Helping Heal

In high school, I volunteered for my local hospital to fulfill my
requirements for volunteering. My mother had volunteered at her local
hospital when she was younger, so I figured the hospital was as good
a place as any to volunteer. I went for it, head first, not knowing
what to expect. I began volunteering at ten hours per week, and after
a few months went down to five hours per week, due to an influx of
schoolwork. I was placed in the hospital gift shop for my time
volunteering, and at first I was upset: I wanted to help patients
directly, or at least work in the postnatal ward, with all the
adorable babies!

But, as I made friends with my coworkers and talked to the people who came
through the gift shop, I realized my job was more important for
patient care than I thought. Patients would come through all the
time, tugging their IVs along, looking for a change from the bland,
clinical, white walls of their hospital rooms. Families and friends
of the patients would come in wanting to talk, tell stories, buy a
candy bar, anything to break up the anxiety of waiting for good news,
bad news, anything about their loved ones. Pregnant women would come
through, walking the hospital to encourage their babies to come,
looking through the maternity section while rubbing their big, round
bellies. People mourning the loss of loved ones would come to
distract themselves from the grief of losing someone to an illness or
injury, to purchase disposable cameras for one last picture, or for
some religious item for spiritual comfort.

I learned a lot about handling money and cashiering, but also about
people at this gift shop. Everyone has to come through a hospital
once or twice in their lives, and it was incredible seeing so many
different people and listening to their stories. I learned to be a
good listener and ask gentle questions about sensitive subjects. I
learned to not absorb the sorrow of every stillborn child and broken
bone, but to empathize and accept the emotions that these people
needed to express.

My direct responsibilities involved cashiering, keeping up cleanliness
in the store, keeping items stocked, and rearranging things as
needed. But the hardest and most rewarding part was interacting with
people who were having the hardest, most vulnerable, most exciting,
most saddening times in their lives.

I know I was just a simple gift shop employee, but I hope to the people
I spoke to, I was comforting. I hope that I helped them get through
some part of their life that was otherwise very difficult. I think
everyone who works in a hospital makes a huge difference in the lives
of their patients, it is not easy to be hospitalized for any reason,
and it is amazing what hospital workers can do to heal patients
mentally, emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically, just by
showing up with a smile.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".