Project Rousseau Amsterdam Nursing Home Community Service

A Peacemaking Project by Susanna O.

What is the injustice we are solving?

This project addresses the issue of social isolation and under-stimulation that the elderly in residential nursing homes experience.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of social isolation
we will address loneliness amongst elderly residents at Amsterdam Nursing Home
by providing board games and opportunities for discussion between high school students and residents.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • We aim to increase the number of residents attending our weekly student session at the Amsterdam Nursing Home by the end of the semester to at least 15.
  • To increase student engagement in life at the Amsterdam Nursing Home, measured using student testimonies.
  • To break down student stereotypes about the elderly, to improve the quality of communication between young and old. We will review and track student attitudes each semester.
  • To use board games and opportunities for conversation to reduce the burden of social isolation among the elderly, measured by resident testimonies.
  • To improve resident quality-of-life by making greeting and holiday cards for them, at least twice per semester.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

volunteering at the Amsterdam Nursing Home each Sunday for a total of 3 hours, and sharing our experience with other students to recruit as many as possible to serve the community. We will show enormous respect for the residents of the nursing home and will listen carefully and empathetically, adjusting our own behavior to make the interaction as pleasant as possible for them. We will also expand our community service efforts at the nursing home by making greeting cards for residents who are ill or who are celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, as well as children in hospital through our partnership with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.

How will you show courage?

For many students, volunteering at the nursing home takes them out of their comfort zone. Not only must they interact with new people, but with those of different races and backgrounds, who are vulnerable given their age, medical concerns, or cognitive impairments. At times this can lead to unpredictable or seemingly insensitive behavior, which the student volunteers must deal with calmly and maturely. This pushes students out of their comfort zone. Moreover, students must show initiative to begin conversation with nursing home residents, as they take on a leadership role in providing support to vulnerable elderly people. They show courage by sharing their own experiences with the residents, as many of them have also had difficult or traumatic experiences in their lives, which take a great deal of bravery to share.

How will you collaborate with others?

We will communicate closely with residents of the nursing home to ensure that we are interacting with them and helping them in a way which makes them feel comfortable. We will also work closely with nurses and other staff at Amsterdam Nursing Home, to make sure we look out for and engage the residents who most want our help. We will also work with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation to provide greeting cards to children in hospital or living with severe diseases, extending our community service to those outside the nursing home.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

We will be conscientious in making sure that our support at the nursing home meets the needs and wishes of the residents. By talking to the residents frequently about their experiences we will ensure that they have ample opportunities to give feedback on their experiences with our students. We will also keep an accurate record of student and resident attendance as an initial indicator of student and adult engagement with the program. Moreover, we will ensure that the greeting cards we produce for adults and children alike are of high quality, and are personalized to be as meaningful as possible for each recipient.

Key Steps

  • We will continue to advertise our program to students and residents each week, ensuring that the message reaches them as effectively as possible.
  • We will purchase new board games for the nursing home based on feedback from residents and students, choosing games which facilitate as much social interaction as possible.
  • We will purchase arts and craft supplies to allow us to create and deliver more cards to nursing home residents and children in-need through Friends of Jaclyn.

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

Social isolation among the elderly becomes ever clearer each time you collect a resident from their room at the Amsterdam Nursing Home. If no one came to collect the residents from their room for board games on a Sunday morning, it is likely that many of them would have no interaction with the outside world outside of meal times and medical appointments. Every time I enter a resident's room I realize that it is crucial to draw attention to the problem of social isolation, which is untouched in much of the public discourse.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

Volunteering strengthens our personal connections and bonds, and allows us to grow together through shared experience. We take time after each volunteering session to reflect on what we have heard that day from the residents over a shared meal.

How many people were impacted by your project?

40

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

In recent months, and average of 10 students each week have had the opportunity to volunteer at the Amsterdam Nursing Home. There are 30 regular attendees among residents.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

The best way for us to learn from those facing social isolation was to talk to them each week. It is an honor to be able to speak to these elderly citizens each week, and to hear about their lives and experiences in the care system, and to have the opportunity to contribute to their happiness and wellbeing.

What did your team learn?

Firstly, we have plenty of new card games, which the residents have taught us and it has been great to be able to purchase new games with the grant funding. More importantly, we have learned the importance of patience and compassionate listening and understanding when interacting with vulnerable elderly residents of the nursing home. It is very important to ensure that each guest at our Sunday meet-ups is feeling comfortable and relaxed, and this can be best achieved through patience, care and careful listening.

What challenges did your team overcome?

It is often challenging to gain the trust of elderly people who have felt neglected or abandoned for so long. We learned the value of perseverance in interacting with the residents, listening to them as empathetically as possible to build up their trust over time.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

We have worked closely with Project Rousseau staff, as well as the staff of the nursing home, to make sure we are helping in the best way possible. We make sure we are helping the residents, and the nursing home more generally, in as targeted a way as possible, by either directly talking to the residents, or completing other tasks around the building under the direction of the staff.

Our Updates:

Hearing stories

Alistair S. 21 May 2018 19:00 As volunteers at the Amsterdam Nursing Home, it has been very rewarding to hear stories from the residents, especially those who have lived through important periods that we have learned about in history class. We love hearing from residents such as Frank, with his war service and time spent in the UK. His stories are always great opportunities to reflect on how life in New York, and around the world, has changed since he was young.

Comments:

Kelsey T.
6 June 2018 16:38

Hi Susanna! Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:
It was inspiring to read your reflection and hear about how this experience has been meaningful for both the nursing home residents and the volunteers who have had the opportunity to learn from their elders! I love that you have included time to reflect on your learnings after each session -- that is so important! I am impressed by your compassion, perseverance, and patience --- and by your powerful insight about how it can take time to build trust with folks who have experienced isolation. This is important work and I'm interested to hear your thoughts on your next steps -- would you be able to complete the additional questions that we added to the reflection? I think we added them in after you submitted -- but we'd love to hear from you! :)

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!  

RaulPF C.
30 May 2018 16:26

Thanks for sharing your reflection Susanna! I felt inspired by your insights around the importance of patience and compassionate listening and understanding when interacting with vulnerable elderly residents. I'm glad this project was able to help improve the experiences for some of the residents!  

Avril P.
5 April 2018 17:20

Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths:

I appreciate you incorporating Raul's advice and developing clear metrics to measure your success! It's great that you developed this project in response to the residents' wishes: putting board games at the center of the outreach is such a lovely way to engage and develop community. This project provides both mental wellness benefits and exchange across generations and across cultures. You've really thought through the challenges that both the volunteers and the residents may experience. You've also thought about different levels of engagement (board games, handmade cards). Nice work!

Things to Consider:
Consider setting a goal for the number of volunteers you'll try to recruit: this will make it easier to provide those 15+ residents with the social interaction they need. You should also consider making the children's greeting cards WITH the nursing home residents -- this way, the residents are included in bringing happiness to the young people. Finally, it might be nice to have an event where the volunteers and the residents get together in a group to share how this project has changed them and how they feel about spending time with different kinds of people. This will help everyone reflect on their experience and maybe encourage more residents and volunteers to join!

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!  

RaulPF C.
6 March 2018 12:22

Excellent! Thanks for the update and for being open to using my feedback to help your project!  

Alistair S.
5 March 2018 11:13

Thanks Raul! We will update the Project Goals accordingly.
Best,
Alistair  

RaulPF C.
1 March 2018 15:32

Hi Susanna!
Thanks again so much for posting this project.

As part of the Peace First project-making process, we give formal feedback on your compassionate insight. Once your insight is all set, then you can move forward with your mini-grant application if you need funds to help move your idea into action!

I think it is great that you have a clearly identified injustice and that you have also identified a clear root cause that you want to start working on. I also looked at the other parts of the process that you have completed and I love the depth of thought that has gone into each of the steps. I think it is also fantastic that you took time to talk to the people that you want to work with. It shows in the quality of your goals. The only thing that comes to mind that I think you could make those goals even better is adding metrics and times to make those goals measurable and time-bound. Do you have, for example, ideas on how many residents do you hope to have on a session basis or as a total? Do you know how many students you would love to have involved? Have you thought how you could measure is the stereotypes are being broken down?

I am excited to see the results of this initiative!

Best,

Raul  

Fish S. Peace First Staff
30 January 2018 14:21

Hi Susanna, sounds like an awesome project! What are the Project Rousseau students' plans for the spring? How can we help?