Travels & Family Letters

I’m done with junior year and back at home! It’s exciting to be done with my year, crazy to think that ¾ of college is over, and wonderful to be back with family. Since the semester has ended, I went to Vietnam (for a Harvard program teaching high-schoolers and I taught one on “The Rise of Heart Disease”) and Japan (for fun for only a day). It’s been quite a whirlwind! I have sent pictures to my friends and family of my travels, including to Nancy’s* family. I know that she will love the wonderful pictures I sent - some seen below! 

In addition, the semesterly annual family letter is due. Our program is in a special position to highlight and celebrate the parts of our buddies that we have come to know and cherish. This can be really important to family members that see what their loved ones have lost. Hence, the family letter really showcases what our volunteers love and know about our buddies. Below are some tips that HCAB sends out to volunteers to help them think, reflect, and write the letter to the buddy’s family. 

(1) Help reconnect the family member(s) with your buddy. Your buddy’s family members have probably seen a decline in their loved one’s cognitive function, whereas you’re seeing what’s still present. Reflect on recurrent names, places, themes, values, or memories from your conversations with your buddy. Try to connect those conversations to the memories and values still treasured by the family.
(2) Show the families what you’ve gotten out of the experience. Show them that their loved one is still having a positive impact on the world. This may be something simple or a visit that really brightened your week; it just has to be sincere.
(3) Celebrate what you value or admire in your buddy. What traits, routines, or experiences make your buddy special?

Given that I just came from Vietnam and Japan, I decided to send a letter to them in person, rather than the typical route of emailing the letter. I know that Francie’s family really likes tangible letters and would appreciate a thoughtful gesture. So, I used some beautiful stationary from Japan and added a postcard featuring Sapa, Vietnam. I hope they like it! 

*Names changed for privacy 

-Ellen Zhang

 

 

 The streets of Hanoi, Vietnam - a familiar sight that I passed by daily as students and teachers went from the hotel we stayed at to schools where we taught. The business of the streets is unlike anything in the USA. 

The streets of Hanoi, Vietnam - a familiar sight that I passed by daily as students and teachers went from the hotel we stayed at to schools where we taught. The business of the streets is unlike anything in the USA. 

 A simple picture of the beauty found in Vietnam. I took this picture in Old Quarters - a rather touristy part of the city, but a place full of culture, fun, and street vendors like this. Aren't the flowers pretty? They smelled just as sweet! 

A simple picture of the beauty found in Vietnam. I took this picture in Old Quarters - a rather touristy part of the city, but a place full of culture, fun, and street vendors like this. Aren't the flowers pretty? They smelled just as sweet! 

 A picture taken at Sapa, a popular trekking base. A couple of friends and I went before the program teaching high schoolers started. The richness of the area was remarkable while there was natural beauty everywhere. This picture was taken from a cable car. 

A picture taken at Sapa, a popular trekking base. A couple of friends and I went before the program teaching high schoolers started. The richness of the area was remarkable while there was natural beauty everywhere. This picture was taken from a cable car. 

 The night life of this picture is a mere snapshot of what it's really like there. The food, noise, and excitement of the Vietnam is incredible. This was another picture taken in Old Quarters. 

The night life of this picture is a mere snapshot of what it's really like there. The food, noise, and excitement of the Vietnam is incredible. This was another picture taken in Old Quarters. 

 In Japan, I visited Asakusa which is known for the Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. That's the place I mainly stayed around, and this is a picture taken there. The idea is to wash your hands and face with the water to bring you luck!

In Japan, I visited Asakusa which is known for the Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. That's the place I mainly stayed around, and this is a picture taken there. The idea is to wash your hands and face with the water to bring you luck!