Connecting through Service
by Matthew Markou, student leader
Near the beginning of the pandemic, I worked at a retirement community and saw firsthand how isolated many seniors felt from not being able to see their family, spending their final years in isolation. Just taking a few minutes out of my day to say hello to a resident and ask them how things are going seemed like it was enough to completely brighten their mood. My role at the residence was property maintenance but the residents were more appreciative of me taking a few minutes to speak with them than they were of my actual work. So when I saw an ad for Student Open Circles volunteer groups, this experience inspired me to join.
Making an impact in my community during the pandemic seemed very exciting to me as I was having trouble finding ways to get involved at the time. Since joining, I have volunteered with seniors and adults with disabilities. My goal as a member of the Seniors groups was to try to reduce the isolation felt during the pandemic and continue doing small deeds that would help brighten someone’s day. I made videos and wrote letters to Seniors. These volunteer groups are a great way to make an impact during a very difficult time for many people and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of these groups.
After almost a year of volunteering with Student Open Circles, to make a bigger impact, I applied to be a facilitator for the Conway Opportunity Homes group where we connect every week with residents of a home for people with developmental disabilities. We build valuable relationships with individuals who have been isolated due to the pandemic. Many of the day programs and activities for these residents had been cancelled. By just taking an hour out of our week, we show these residents that they have not been forgotten and that there are people in their community that truly care about them. This experience has also provided me with the opportunity to advocate for accessibility and inclusion of those with disabilities.