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

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

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

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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.