New Semester, New Volunteers, New Beginnings


Between research, service, and other things, I’ve managed to stay pretty busy. There’s no easy way to put it - Pearl passed away. Writing it out makes it that much more real. A lot has happened, as I said, but I think that time has managed to make it a lot more bearable. For me, it’s been really helpful knowing that Pearl passed away without pain and was so deeply loved by so many. Just as importantly, she has touched the lives of so many she has met. I am so privileged to have been able to spend time with her and get to know her through HCAB.

It’s been awhile, but it’s still not great talking about it. But, I am more comfortable sharing my experiences that I’ve had with her to others. After all, I know that’s what she would have wanted.  Here, I wanted to write about a more recent experience that really helped put things into perspective for me today.

A few weeks ago, the other co-directors and I selected a fresh batch of volunteers. We’re so pleased that the number of applicants for our program has skyrocketed. I can definitely say it’s because our volunteers have loved the program, and have told their many friends and peers about it! We now have a incredible number of 60 volunteers. After selecting volunteers, we had our HCAB101 for all new volunteers. This orientation consists of a history of our program, broad overview of our mission, skills / techniques to ensure quality programming, and time to be matched with a buddy. Our orientation is one of the strongest assets of our program because it ensures that our volunteers are mentally and emotionally prepared to be pillars of support for buddies. Moreover, it is the first step for volunteers and their buddies to build a healthy, sustainable relationship. This event was a great success, and I could truly sense the excitement in the air. For me, it was crazy to reflect on how a couple years ago, I was in their seat.

Now, as I help lead the orientation, I think back to how I used to be an eager and fresh volunteer. The excitement I felt at being able to meet someone new was unparalleled. This semester, I will be matched with a new buddy. I’m excited to know who she is and get to know her. At the same time, I understand that I have to go into the relationship with no expectations - doing so would be unfair to my new buddy. As importantly, I’m eager to see how the new volunteers will grow from this experience. There is no doubt that I will see some of my past and present in them as we move towards the future.

- Ellen Zhang