Friend of the Month May 2019

Length of Volunteering: 1 year, 8 months

What do you and your match like to do during your meetings?

We always spend time just talking about our weeks, our families, and interests. It’s amazing how quickly time can pass once we get to talking. When it’s nice out we would sit on her porch and just enjoy time together in the warm weather. Maria loves the summer!

What have you learned from your match and what have they learned from you?

The beauty of intergenerational friendship is that there is so much to learn from your friend and from their perspective. Maria emigrated from rural Italy in the 1950s to Brighton, where she has been in the neighborhood ever since. Hearing her talk about her story, how she got here, and how much Boston has changed fascinates me. She’s also taught me a few words in Italian! I travel frequently, so wherever I go in the world I get Maria a souvenir and explain where I got it from – she really loves hearing those stories and seeing the photos I take.

What is your most memorable experience as a volunteer?

Several months into our visits, Maria brought out some old family photo books and we went through them together. Seeing her eyes light up as she told me all about her siblings who are spread throughout Europe was such a treat. This is my favorite memory so far because I knew that it was an important milestone in our friendship. I knew it could take a lot of vulnerability for her to share that part of her life with me, and talk about her family who she hasn’t seen in a very long time because of the distance.

What future activities are you looking forward to doing with your match?

Since Maria enjoys the warm weather so much, we’re really looking forward to finally getting outside. At our last visit we talked about going to a nearby park and having a little picnic, once it gets warmer.

Why do you volunteer with FriendshipWorks?

I really believe in the power of intergenerational friendships. Ever since I was a kid, I gravitated to those who were much older than me because I loved hearing their stories. I was looking for volunteer opportunities with older adults and heard of FriendshipWorks which was a perfect fit. I’m so grateful to FriendshipWorks for matching me with such a sweet, kind, and wonderful friend. Seeing Maria is absolutely the highlight of my week, and at this point, we don’t just feel like friends, we’re family.

Any additional comments:

Keep doing what you are all doing. This is a wonderful organization and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

 

Spring Arts and Crafts Project: A Volunteer’s Story

I have greatly enjoyed doing crafts with the elders at Compass over the last year; I think it brings me as much joy as it does them.  I see individuals really open up and get the chance to express themselves while we are working and chatting. I always tell them that my favorite part of the craft is that we all start with the same project, and yet everyone’s final product is so unique. It really shows each person’s individuality and creative eye! I see them become engaged in their own projects, but also offer guidance or help with their neighbor’s project, which really warms my heart. We also get some really interesting conversations going while we are all sitting around the same table crafting. While most participate, some elders prefer to come and just watch and chat, and that is nice too—everyone can get something out of the experience.

It’s been so rainy and gloomy in Boston lately, so last month for April I decided we would just have to bring the sun inside! We made rainbows that we decorated with colored tissue paper, and cotton balls for clouds. They were so fun to make, and at the end we had about 10. So I hung them up to create our own “rainbow wall”. The project brightened everyone’s mood and also the room in the end!

Alison L., Volunteer

Goodbye to our Interns—Sort of!

Left to Right: Kara Jeter,  Community Outreach and Education Coordinator Christy Waybright, Veronica Knight and Rowan Van Ness)

FriendshipWorks has been blessed with a great team of six volunteer interns who worked with Community Outreach and Education Coordinator, Christy Waybright, M. Div. and Director of Programs, Caity Axelrod-McLeod, MSW over the course of 2018-19. Christy and Caity each oversaw a team of three individuals. Together, they combined their skills and education with our mission and focus by dedicating hundreds of hours to strengthen our programs and resources through their outreach and administrative efforts. They focused on particular areas such as the LGBT elder initiative, expansion of the Low Vision Resource Guide, the Medical Escort and Relaxing Through the Arts programs, as well as the creation and completion of the Medical Escort Survey. In fact, rounding out their total hours for the year, these six incredible interns contributed more than 2,500 hours from September to May. Talk about impact!

Working with Christy were Kara Jeter, Rowan Van Ness, and Veronica Knight. Kara Jeter started as our Outreach Intern in May 2018. Kara volunteered weekly while working on her Masters in Health Communications and Promotions from Boston University.  As our Outreach Intern, she was instrumental in helping us develop our Community Ambassador program, expand our outreach for volunteers and elders and gather match stories. We’re excited to announce that, upon graduating this month, Kara will become our new Allston/Brighton Neighborhood Director!

Rowan Van Ness served as our Harvard Divinity School field education intern for the academic year. Rowan facilitated our LGBT elder initiative to better serve LGBT older adults who are aging alone in Boston and Brookline. Rowan’s work has been critical in targeting a previously underserved population.

And, Veronica Knight, our Master of Social Work intern from Boston University, played a significant part in furthering our work with seniors who have vision loss, by administering surveys, taking referrals and updating our Low Vision Resource Guide.

Christy’s colleague, Program Director Caity Axelrod-McLeod, balanced out the rest of the intern team at FriendshipWorks, welcoming three Bachelors of Social Work interns who made further impacts on three additional FriendshipWorks programs.

Meghan Larrabee and Michaela Smith worked primarily with the Medical Escort Program and also had individual Friendly Visiting matches. In addition, Meghan spent time weekly at the Peterborough Senior Center, and together, Meghan and Michaela created and administered a survey for our Medical Escort Recipients, with the goal of refining our services for the Medical Escort program.

Stephanie Enderson worked directly with Jeanne Martin, MSW, MTS, Ed.D. running two of the Relaxing Through the Arts groups in nursing homes. She also enjoyed a one-on-one match.

Meghan, Michaela and Stephanie also assisted with outreach for the May 19 Walk to End Elder Isolation. While all but Kara are moving on, their impact with programming, volunteering, creating surveys and updating guides is long-lasting.

“This was a truly special group of BSW interns. Each of them grew, matured and evolved into professional social workers who have gained such confidence and maturity. I am so proud of each of them!” said Axelrod-McLeod.

FriendshipWorks is very grateful for the time, talent, dedication, and contributions these six interns made to the growing populations we serve. We wish them well as they move into the next phase of their education and careers!

A Light Shines for the Visually Impaired with New Pilot Vision Program

This month, Sassy Outwater-Wright was able to commute on the MBTA while pioneering a remarkable six-month pilot program testing a combination of free technology and smart glasses.

Outwater-Wright is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI). MABVI has partnered with FriendshipWorks on our Elder Low Vision Initiative, providing guidance on how to connect low vision elders with programs and resources, and Outwater-Wright served as a panelist on the Low Vision Forums held by FriendshipWorks.

On May 1st, she was featured in the Boston Globe as she navigated MBTA trains, street crossings, construction, and other aspects of her daily commute from Salem to Brookline, with the help of a mobile app called Aira. This free app, acts as the eyes for a low vision or blind individual providing an extra measure of safety, mobility, and confidence when navigating stairs, street crossings, frequent construction impediments, and train platforms. Individuals may still have seeing eye dogs and white canes, but with the help of the Aira app, people who are blind or have low-vision, can tap on their phone, and be immediately connected with trained agents to guide them via a live stream camera on their commutes in what can often seem like a maze of obstacles. This service provides the individual with assistance on demand and acts as the eyes for the commuter according to Outwater-Wright.

As noted by Aira, because age-related vision loss affects nearly everyone, accessibility to the state’s transportation system is a priority. Important because in Massachusetts, there are more than 130,000 people statewide and 17,000 in Boston affected by low vision or blindness.

Recognizing the increase in people needing more assistance and mobility due to visual challenges, in 2016 FriendshipWorks worked with a team of Low Vision Specialists to create our Elder Low Vision Initiative that pairs low vision elders with trained volunteers to support them. Additionally, FriendshipWorks offers Elder Low Vision workshops to train elder care providers, and a Low Vision Resource Guide. For more information or to make a referral, please visit us at: www.fw4elders.org or call us at 617-482-1510.

Watch Janet on New England Cable News “The Take” with Sue O’Connell

Janet Seckel-Cerrotti rarely passes up an opportunity to talk about an issue that affects all of us; aging and the negative effect it has on people who are isolated from family and friends.  America is aging and not everyone is aging well.  Fortunately, there is a growing awareness about isolation and its life-shortening impact on many older adults, made clear in Janet’s interview with Sue O’Connell.

https://www.necn.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Addressing-Social-Isolation-Among-the-Elderly_NECN-508463012.html