By Melody Zhao*
I walked up to the door, unsure but excited. It was my first day as a friendly visitor to chat with residents at the Fudger House long-term care home. Ruth, the volunteer coordinator, was so warm and welcoming that I felt at ease at once. Her friendly presence was reflected in the residents as well, who were just as welcoming to me. Ruth introduced me to many of the residents there, and their stories made me laugh and smile so much that I knew I had made a good choice to volunteer there.
Although I was eager to chat with everyone, I was there in particular to chat with Chinese speaking residents that could not speak English fluently. Although Ruth did not speak Chinese herself, her beaming smile conveyed all that was needed as she introduced me. For me, it was a chance to contribute to the community with my bilingual ability and practice Chinese; for the residents, it was a wonderful time to speak in their first language. I spoke to a very kind old man, and we chatted about our backgrounds and families. I realized how much in common we had with one another, despite our difference in years. It was a great experience to connect with my Chinese roots through the conversation, and I found it very rewarding to make even a small positive difference in his day. As I left, I will never forget how he smiled at Ruth, pointed at me and said to her: “Wo de zhong guo peng you”, which means “my friend from China”. I never thought it would be so impactful, but it really made me feel like I had made a difference.
Over the course of my following visits, I had a great time talking to other residents as well. Each person has so many stories within us, that getting to speak to residents at Fudger House, looking at pictures with them, reminiscing and talking about life feels like a privilege. As the senior projects assistant this year, I can’t wait to bring this experience to more students at UofT!
*Melody Zhao is a fourth year Molecular Genetics specialist, and has volunteered at Fudger House since May.
Registration to volunteer at Fudger House is currently still open! Go to: http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/ccp/fudger to register!
Ignore the registration deadline listed on website.