Pune – Volunteers speak.

group-20160831_134945Caregivers Link and the Social Outreach Enabling Centre (SOEC) of Fergusson College have come together through some of us, student volunteers, in this academic year 2016-2017. We completed our first month of work this August and it has been both, fun and productive, as everyone got acquainted with each other. Our team comprises Akansha, Ananya, Asterilla, Gauri, Madhura and me, Mallika. Anahita, our senior, does not exactly work with us, but she is our coordinator and she started us off on this volunteering route. We work in Pune with Shikha of Caregivers Link. We also work online. So we are a little bit all over the place 😉

In the first meeting, the first question that Shikha asked each one of us was – Why we wanted to volunteer for Caregivers Link? – And in response to this, almost all of us volunteers came up with a few care-related stories to share, ones which we had experienced ourselves, stories we felt strongly about, and that is why we chose to work for Caregivers Link. For me personally, one of the major reasons why I volunteered is because my family and I are caregivers to my grandmother who has dementia and I want to learn more about this condition and about others as well.

The vision of Caregivers Link as I have understood for myself, is to think of solutions and create social support to tackle care-related issues – and this what I wanted to do.The platform of Caregivers Link promises to provide us volunteers with the right exposure and training that we wish to have, learning and helping along the way, and so here we are, proud volunteers of this social venture.

The first meeting proceeded with an explanation of the basic protocols and ground rules to be maintained by us. These are:-

Confidentiality – understanding and integrating the rules of consent, confidentiality and privacy into everything we do, with anybody whatsoever. (Consent and privacy are big concepts to always keep in mind during all our work.)
Listening.
Respect for differences, including different paces and different skill sets.
Time commitment and management.
Documenting – Volunteers to write, take pics, (Only after checking with the people concerned, if it okay to take pics and use for recording, campaigning and communication purposes.) Each of us also gave our consent for ‘working stills’/audio/video featuring us and our work with Caregivers Link.

 

Moving on to my favourite part of the meeting, Shikha brought out the creativity in all of us by giving us crayons and drawing sheets to describe our skillsets. It was a very interesting and unique way that none of us had ever tried before! Here you can see some pics of what we did…

 

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sketches-20160906_133710We discussed the different tasks and projects that we will be doing as volunteers throughout the year, and each of us were started off with small tasks to be done over the Internet. We talked about the purpose of maintaining a Facebook group as a place where people in care relationships could share experiences or information and interesting posts. We were asked to start here, to read and understand what people were talking about.

We have our own WhatsApp group now and it keeps us connected so we all know when there is a job to do or one of us needs support and back up. This is the other thing we were told at the first meeting. Support and back-up begins with us.

 

In the next meeting, we all got to know each other better. Through a small warm-up exercise to take stock of our August experiences, each volunteer was asked to come up with words that first came to their mind as they thought of Caregivers Link, and everyone came up with words like ‘social support’, ‘experiences’, ‘reading’, etc. See the words on the black board? We discussed them briefly, before moving on to other things.

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It was during this meeting that assignments were distributed, crucial topics were discussed, deadlines were set and real work began! Reading up on articles and stories was our primary task, and it was quite a mind exerting and time taking task, but as Madhura very aptly said, ‘It didn’t feel like work. It’s amazing how reading the stories makes you strong and gives you positivity.’

This is one of the posts I chose to share on the Facebook group…

How a 57-Year-Old Started a Free Tiffin Service for Senior Citizens in His Mumbai Locality

I had heard about this initiative earlier on the show “Satyamev Jayate”. What I liked the most was how Mark D’Souza thought about such a basic everyday task that becomes a problem for most senior citizens. Most of the time they don’t feel like cooking a nice meal for themselves and end up either fasting or eating leftovers for days. His concluding statement brought a smile, he says “Once you take up the initiative, everything falls into place”.

Asterilla, the music lover amongst us, shared this – By Making Music For The Deaf, Coke Studio Just Made History – She says, “I believe that music inherently has a healing power and getting that to a person who is deaf is something that I think is splendid and extraordinary.”

In our volunteers email group, Akanksha shared this link to the ‘Alzheimer’s poem’ that had been posted earlier on the Facebook Group. It’s beautiful, and should be shared again –

One of the readings Ananya shared as part of her homework was on palliative care – The long days and fleeting friendships of a palliative care worker – She says, “The fact which drew my attention was ‘ Sometimes, the best a counselor can do is to listen to terminally ill patients and hear out their families.’ Just listening to what they feel sometimes helps in reducing the pain they are going through.”

In early September, Shikha along with Gauri and me, had a meeting with Dr. Anuradha Sahasrabudhe and two of her team members, Priyanka and Rohini, from CHILDLINE, Pune. This meeting was set up to discuss the possibility of working together, particularly adapting story work with some of the children in their programs and project areas. This meeting too was a good experience. The team at CHILDLINE gave us a warm welcome and we exchanged many stories. They got to know about us and we learnt about their different initiatives as well. We hope to do some work here soon.

 

As I asked a few volunteers how working with Caregivers Link has been for them so far, Asterilla replied “Working with Caregivers Link for the past month has been insightful. I’ve got to learn and read a lot and I’m looking forward to a lot more sessions with CGL.” Akansha said – “It has been a great experience, and the actual work hasn’t even begun yet! The entire experience till now has been very interesting and I look forward to doing much more. :)” So with us volunteers with Caregivers Link, the team has a few interesting plans this year. We invite you to tell us what you think we could do and we will keep you posted on the things we are already doing.

Mallika Padhi – with inputs from everyone!

 

8 comments

  1. Seema Das says:

    I live in the US and govt. here provides home attendant for people who need care in any stage of life and my mother was 82 years old when she fractured her femur and became home bound. Since the rest of the family was at work and school for most part of the day, she was given a home attendant for a few hours during the day. Mom would shower by herself early in the morning, eat her breakfast and make a cup of tea for herself and Maria, put on Maria’s favorite TV show and wait for her. After watching they shared opinions ( mind you it used to be Spanish soaps 😬) Mom would bring out old yarn and dress materials and both of them made doll clothes for my daughter Rachel. This is all the care she ever needed. Someone to share with, laugh and offer hospitality to. Care has a different meaning for different people. I applaud you who give their time and care for people like my Mom and many others. Keep up the good work. Keep your perspective of providing care fresh and enthusiastic. All the best! With Shikha you are in good hands 😊

    1. Akanksha Birari says:

      Truly… Just someone’s presence can make a difference.
      Thank you so much for your wishes! :)

  2. Sonya Singha says:

    Voluteers make up the back bone of any great grassroot initiative – such as Caregivers Link. You guys are bringing your own unique experiences and perspectives to this forum to come up with newer and more innovative ways of caring for and handling the people you love the most – usually our own family members. So thank you all for putting forth this effort, energy and enthusiasm!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Akanksha Birari says:

      Thank you so much Sonya!
      We look forward to doing much more! :)

  3. Mallika padhi says:

    Thank-you Nidhi,shreya and Surbhi. :)

  4. Nidhi says:

    What a wonderful team with a focused approach to bring a change in an otherwise fast deteriorating society of ‘android office goers’ All my best wishes with you all. Caregiving is not just about changing bedsheets n diapers – its about letting the human within such ailing people come alive and not give up before the actual mortal time. Caregiving requires love and patience and caregivers require nurturing. God bless you all crusaders!!

  5. Surbhi Bhatr says:

    Great job! Keep it up. :)

  6. Shreya Dutta says:

    Hey this is a really nice initiative take up by you guys. All the best for the future!

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