Genna Hewett-Abbott, Iona Senior Services

For the last several months I have been volunteering at Iona Senior Services as part of AU’s Community Service-Learning Program. As a Public Health major, I love volunteering in the community with underserved populations. Working at Iona has exposed me to a wide range of different cultures and backgrounds. I have learned words in several different languages, different national holidays, music and dance routines from a diverse set of cultures. Iona celebrates the differences between its participants and works to ensure everyone feels heard and valued.

As a volunteer at the St. Albans location I help set up for daily activities such as group exercises, small concerts and dance performances and bingo with students from the nearby elementary school. I also prepare and serve lunch and interact with participants by listening to their stories and explaining some technology. I also serve in the Tenleytown location on the weekends by preparing meals to be delivered to seniors who cannot cook meals and during the week in the financial office.

I have previously worked at Iona and jumped at the opportunity to return. The different employees, participants, and other volunteers are all such kind and welcoming people. We all have widely diverse backgrounds and I enjoy comparing our different experiences and thoughts.  Participants jumped at the chance to explain their heritage. One woman explained a Romanian holiday that celebrates grandmothers; another explained how she fled from Germany in 1939 from Hitler as a Jewish child. I value hearing their stories especially as I tied my CSLP service to my multicultural health class. Learning about different cultures both in class and through my experiences at Iona I feel that I am receiving a well-rounded education.

I have been surprised at how useful I have been. Setting up tables and chairs, serving lunch common and helping participant sign in every day seem like small tasks that don’t serve a purpose; however, with a small staff and a large group of participants the smallest job can make a huge impact on the day-to-day activities. I am also surprised at how quickly I’ve formed relationships with the staff, volunteers, and participants. Spending time with the different people at Iona has forged incredible relationships and created lasting memories that all tie in to what I am learning in class. I feel very lucky two have been able to serve at Iona for the last few months. I can only hope that I have touch the lives of those who have touched mine during my experiences at Iona.

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