Volunteering isn’t just calling B-I-N-G-O

Stratford junior named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ for work at local retirement community


Playing bingo and giving snacks to the elderly is not the typical way in which most teenagers spend their summer. 

I went to Carlyle Place about three times a week during this past summer and did just that though, and I learned a lot because of it. 

I  began volunteering at Carlyle Place just because I got bored over the summer after my freshman year and felt I needed more community service hours.  My mom told me she had heard that Carlyle Place was a good place to get community service hours, so I signed up to be a volunteer. 

I walked into Carlyle Place for the first time for my volunteer orientation, and I was immediately surprised. I did not realize retirement homes were so nicely furnished and included so many amenities. I had been worried it would be a somber place, but it really wasn’t. 

On my first official day of volunteering, I got lost in the building. When I finally found the place where I needed to be, I discovered my job was not as easy as it sounded. I was supposed to read to the residents, but that meant I had to speak loudly and clearly because some had hearing problems. My voice is naturally soft, so this was a challenge. I was relieved to be finished after an hour. 

I saw that it was more than just reading books in a loud voice. It was giving people the chance to feel happy during hard times. ”

— Sabina Ajjan

Nevertheless, I decided to volunteer another time. Instead of reading, I sat with people in the memory care center and talked to them. I was nervous about doing this at first because I was not sure if I needed to speak differently to people with dementia and Alzheimers. I found out, however, they are really just like everybody else. 

After talking to many residents, I realized most enjoy the company of visitors.

That was when I decided to continue volunteering at Carlyle. I saw that it was more than just reading books in a loud voice. It was giving people the chance to feel happy during hard times. 

I started playing bingo and handing out snacks to residents as well and even came to know some of them by name. 

As I talked to them more, I learned that some of them have amazing life stories. Their residents have degrees from places such as Cornell and have had buildings named after them. 

When I went back to school, I was too busy to volunteer most of the time, but I came back the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I performed the same duties as before, but I came to know the residents and staff even better. 

In total, I have served about 50 hours at Carlyle. 

In August, I found out that I won the Volunteer of the Year award from the Georgia Healthcare Administration. 

I was surprised and honored because I did not know this award existed before and thought other teenage volunteers had done more than me. 

I hope to continue volunteering this summer and winter break and maybe even interview some residents to write stories about them.