At the end of every semester, we have reflection session consisting of approximately 10 volunteers and facilitated by co-director. How it works is that we have a set of questions to go through and we talk about it. It's a great experience to talk about the highs and lows of the program and our experiences in it. In fact, it's similar to van reflections - we go around and talk about our weekly visits on our way back to Harvard in the vans - however, they are more in depth and longitudinal.
This year, we had a couple reflection sessions on different dates depending on people’s schedules. The first reflection session, which I was in, was quite popular. So, we broke up into two different large groups to go over some questions that led to larger discussions.
Some of the most distinctive memories are a girl who talked about bringing her flute to each visit to play for her buddy; another volunteer who looked over her buddy’s postcards and they would talk about the buddy’s travels to place such as Argentina; and a guy who spoke about how he read the sports section of the newspaper with his buddy. It was warming to hear these stories, and it brought me the realization of how rich the buddy’s lives were before they came to be part of our program. Their lives, like those of volunteers in the program, are also being enriched through Alzheimer’s Buddies.
We also discussed some of our unique challenges that come with our program ranging from buddies not remembering volunteers to buddies not wanting to interact with us. I shared my own experiences with my first buddy (before Pearl) who did not want to interact with me. However, with time this had changed. Discussing the challenges that we experienced was good to unpack the emotions that we had during our program. It was also helpful to have others validate the experiences we were having and try to see if there were any steps we could take to cope or resolve things.
After the reflection session, which lasted a little more than an hour, I had lunch with another volunteer in the program. Despite our busy schedule during finals period, we ended up talking for more than an hour. We began by talking about the program before delving into other topics, such as classes, research, and our time at Harvard. It was great to get to know her better, and I honestly believe that she is a great fit for our program from the conversation I have had with her. She was reflective, thoughtful, and compassionate. Its moments like this that I appreciate the relationships that I am able to form with others, beyond just my buddy! One goal I have next year is to get to know all the volunteers better.