Mark Kiwanuka, Iona Senior Services

Doing a CSLP was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. My name is Mark Kiwanuka and my major is public health. In the beginning, I had so many choices of places to volunteer. I like that CSLP can be applied to most volunteer programs in DC because this gave me the assurance that I will find the right place for me. After going to the volunteer fair and seeing the different organizations, the place where I volunteered at for my CSLP was IONA. IONA is a senior service program for local DC residents. IONA’s mission is to support people as they experience the challenges and opportunities of aging. They have 2 sites in DC with one in Tenleytown and another one at the National Cathedral. The location I mostly volunteered at was the National Cathedral site. My expectations of what went on at IONA and what actually was done took me by surprise. I had the impression that IONA was simply a food drive for seniors in DC. I was wrong and IONA is much more than that. IONA focuses on many aspects important to senior life. IONA at the National Cathedral site starts the day with daily exercise for the seniors. After that, they serve a balanced and healthy lunch. Then, they have guests come in with programs or activities that they see as beneficial for their members. The guests and activities are different almost every day. From Medicare officers educating the seniors on the benefits of their services, to elementary school students coming in to interact with seniors to improve their mental health, IONA always makes sure its guests are there to help seniors.

The class I saw IONA as a perfect connection for was my health promotion program planning. In health program planning, we learn the importance of health programs and the effects it has on the community. IONA has a major focus on health. IONA is a program focuses on the well-being of seniors. It uses its balanced lunch, daily physical activity classes, and guest speakers and activities specifically geared towards the age group as a way to a improve senior’s life. One of the most important life lessons I have learned from doing this is that a little active listening can go a long way. For many of these seniors, society treats them as people who no longer have an active role to play in it. Not listening to people who are past their time and assuming they don’t understand how things work in the modern world. Volunteering with seniors has given me the chance to listen to many different fascinating life stories and really see the important role seniors have in society. Learning invaluable lessons from people who have been through all different types of situations. Most times when I’m at IONA I feel like the seniors there are helping me more than I ever could help them volunteering. I am glad I chose IONA as my CSLP site and wish to volunteer there in the future.

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