I hope you are all doing well and are safe at home! For those of you who need a reminder, my action cycle is about my volunteer work at the BCSPCA and Eagle Ridge Hospital and Manor (ERH). I am not currently an active volunteer at these locations because of the current pandemic; however, because I’ve been volunteering at each position for over a year, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have enough experience to continue with my action. But, instead of talking about my current shifts, I’ll reflect on my previous work.
So, let’s get started with post #3!
1.) Where are you with your action? (e.g. what involvement have you had so far? Describe with examples)
Starting with the BCSPCA, I’ve been volunteering at this location for almost exactly a year now, so I’ve had some fairly extensive involvement so far! My first four shifts were spent with the small animals (rats, guinea pigs, bunnies, etc) in the shelter only as I didn’t have the qualifications to work with the cats and kittens quite yet. With the small animals, I’d sit in their pens and feed them veggies while letting them climb over my legs and giving them occasional pets. Most small animals don’t enjoy being picked up and because of their fragile spines, it’s actually quite easy to injure them; so, I didn’t do much else besides petting when it came to touching them. I would spend the first half of my shift with the animals then spend the last hour cleaning the shelter. Laundry, dishes, sweeping/mopping, and the preparation of tomorrow’s food are the main tasks the evening volunteers deal with each shift. If there is more time, then we take a look at the checklist on the board to see what else we can do, but usually, the tasks listed above take until the end of the shift.
With ERH, I’ve been a volunteer for a year and a half now. I used to be very nervous when I was starting out as the hospital was a very unfamiliar place and I didn’t know anyone I worked with. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn my way around the hospital and make good relationships with my fellow volunteers. My first four weeks were spent helping out the nurses, folding socks and gowns, and giving directions to visitors in guest services. I also sanitized binders every shift – I think I’ve probably sanitized hundreds of binders overall…no complaints here though! The next four weeks were spent in the manor of the hospital where the older adults reside. I’ll explain more of my job here in an upcoming post, but our main job is to feed those who need extra assistance and to lead the afternoon activity of the night.
2.) What are some successes that you have had? Provide specific examples.
My biggest successes for both locations were the unlikely relationships I formed with both people and animals. At the SPCA, it’s not likely to see a kitten two weeks in a row – those little guys disappear very quickly! However, older cats usually stick around a little longer in the shelter. I remember one cat whose name was Stirfry. He was a mangy little fellow who was quite old. Although he was friendly, he was a picky eater and shed quite a bit, so he wasn’t exactly popular with the customers. I ended up spending a lot of time with this cat and I like to think he liked me too – he let me brush his fur and he liked rubbing the side of his body on my legs which is a sign of affection. I did some trial and error when it came to his food and found a combination he enjoyed which was great since he hadn’t been eating his original food. A few weeks later, Stirfry was adopted and although I was sad to see him go, I’m happy knowing he found a loving place to call home.
At ERH, making longlasting relationships with the people in the manor can be a little difficult because your shift changes quite frequently (between the manor and guest services) and because of the unfortunate fact that many of the residents have dementia, making it harder for them to remember you. Nevertheless, I try my best to form relationships with each shift, even if someone doesn’t remember or recognize me. A lot of the residents are eager to talk and give advice from their own life. I love listening to their stories and their feelings as I learn a lot that can be applied to my own life. I know the people I interact with usually appreciate my company as they tell me how nice it felt to talk to someone which feels very rewarding.
3.) What are some challenges that you have faced? Have you been able to overcome them? If so, how? Provide specific examples. If not, can you problem-solve some ideas that might work for next time or if a similar situation arises? Again, provide specific examples.
The main challenge I’ve faced at the BCSPCA would probably be related to time management. Sometimes there are some missing volunteers or the shelter is especially messy which can make it hard to finish all my tasks on time. In times like these, I’ve found it easiest to finish all my cleaning/organizational work at the beginning of my shift and spend any remaining time with the animals. Usually, we spend the first half with the animals, but this way I can make sure everything that needs to get done is completed.
At ERH, the main challenge I face is interacting with residents who are either aggressive or reluctant to eat/communicate. To overcome this, it’s truly a case-by-case scenario as each person is different. Nevertheless, you can never go wrong with contacting a nurse to help. As I’ve gained more experience, I’ve learned different ways to react to each situation without needing the help of a nurse which I’ll explain in my next round!
Thanks for reading! I hope you have more insight into what it’s like as a volunteer at each place. Feel free to leave me any questions or comments as I look forward to reading them! 🙂