Community Stories

Student Volunteers and Seniors Connect at Sun Village Homes

April 16, 2024

Heart2Heart is connecting seniors at Sun Village Homes in Hialeah with students from West Coast University for face-to-face visits

One of those students is Maria Namendy, a 39-year-old office manager for an internal medicine practice. Maria is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing at West Coast University’s Miami campus.

For the last few months, she’s been volunteering at Sun Village Homes. She loves helping and connecting with the residents. Usually, she goes on Fridays and participates in various recreational activities with the seniors. She also helps with dinner, helps residents eat, and assists the nurses as they administer medications.

A Listening Ear

However, the most valuable service Maria and her fellow students provide is a listening ear.

“I feel that older people don’t really get a voice, so it’s so nice to just sit with them and listen to their stories,” Maria said.

Maria loves learning what their lives were like when they were young, looking at their old pictures, and providing companionship.

“Most of our residents don’t have any family,” said Rita Alfonso, administrator and activity director at the center. “They have poor contact with society, so they like to speak with young people. That’s good for them.”

Rita said that the university volunteers play games with the residents, color with them, listen to music with them. They can even help residents with technology, helping them navigate the internet and use a tablet. 

They can always use additional hands, and this helps the staff focus on their more specialized work.

A Bond over Nursing

For Maria, she will always remember a special interaction with one particular resident. 

“She said that her son had been a nurse in her country, Cuba. When he came to the States, he continued his nursing, and now her granddaughter is also doing that,” Maria said. “She just told me her whole story.”

The next time Maria volunteered, the woman came looking for her. 

“She had a homemade beaded bracelet for me,” Maria said. 

The woman makes the beaded bracelets to help keep her mind and motor skills sharp, Maria said. She showed Maria one that she had made for her granddaughter that also included seashells.

A “Little Hero” 

Not only is volunteering great practice for her nursing career, it’s also rewarding to spend time with the seniors, Maria said.

“To me, it’s an honor for them to share their stories with me,” Maria said. “Even though we are sometimes doing real simple things like helping them in their activities and transportation to grabbing something that fell on the floor, we can be like a little hero to them.”

Maria doesn’t know which area of nursing she will specialize in. For now, she is enjoying all of the seniors.

“They’re very welcoming,” she said. “They’re very open. They receive you. I love the feeling that you get when you realize, ‘I helped today’ or ‘He needed to be listened to or needed just a smile or a hug.’”

To share the warm feelings of service, explore outreach opportunities in our care centers

Join the Team!

Becoming a Heart2Heart volunteer means that you are dedicated to serving the aging community. It means you want to connect in a meaningful way to a specific individual or to several people. It means you are committed to a consistent amount of time per month – whether that’s several hours a week or just a few hours per month.

Heart2Heart volunteers must be background checked and trained. Our training can be completed from your home on your computer or device, through the online Volunteer Portal. We run fingerprints in our office in Fort Lauderdale, and you can schedule an appointment with us after you finish the training.

The first step is to create an account on our Volunteer Portal. To get started, click here!

Read more …

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