Youth Volunteer Scholarship
Annually, Saint Therese awards two $2,000.00 educational scholarships in recognition of youth volunteers who enrich the lives of seniors.
All youth volunteers currently in grades 9-12 who have completed a minimum of 20 volunteer hours with one or more seniors by date of submission. Prior applicants who have not yet received a scholarship are encouraged to re-apply. Prior recipients are not eligible and will not be considered.
Eligible applicants have spent time impacting the lives of seniors (relative or non-relative) in a care center or within one's community. Volunteer hours may be spent the following ways: one-on-one visits, doing household chores, raking leaves, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, etc.
Eligible applicants must reside in the seven county Twin Cities metro area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington) or the western Wisconsin counties of Pierce or St Croix.
Applications must be received or postmarked by February 3, 2021.
The Purpose of Life is to Help Others
By Resaqo H.
Sometimes the people you meet by chance can change your life. I learned that the purpose of life is to help other people through volunteering. Over one year ago, my family moved to Minnesota from Denver, Colorado and I didn’t know many people in my neighborhood. After a while, I met an older woman who was sitting on the stairs outside our apartment. She said to me, “My daughter, can you sit down with me?”. She asked for my name and told me her name was Fadumo.
This meeting was the beginning of an important friendship. In my community, it is important to respect your elders and help your neighbors. Even though young people in my community don’t have many chances to volunteer at hospitals or schools, I knew that I could make a difference in my neighbor’s life by helping Fadumo.
Like me, Fadumo is from Somalia and came to America as a refugee. We both lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia, where we could not go to school. She told me that she had no family here, and that meant there was no one to take care of her. This made me feel very sad when I compared her home life to my own. I have five brothers and four sisters ranging in age from 3 to 20 years old. I am the second oldest of my family. I am responsible for helping my parents and younger siblings, but I'm the type of person who likes to help others no matter what.
Fadumo said she wanted to do good deeds for other people but struggled because she felt old and didn’t have much energy. She was lonely and had different pains and bad headaches sometimes. I decided that I could help her by spending time with her every day after school, because she was my neighbor and needed help. Over the next year I learned that with a little help from me, I could make her more comfortable in her house, help her improve her health, and include her as part of my family and community.
Almost every day I would visit Fadumo, make tea, cook some food and help her keep her house clean. I gave her my time and my energy and I was happy to help her and it made her happier and healthier when I was with her. The more I visited her home, the closer Fadumo and I became. I learned that Fadumo was a really good and open-minded woman as we shared our life stories. Over time we built a close relationship because she liked me and I was the only one she trusted to enter her house. Often I would check on her before I went to work, and sometimes I would call her during my break time. I spent about six hours at her house every week. I know Fadumo needed my help because she told all our neighbors about how helpful I was to her.
One day when I came to Fadumo’s house a doctor was visiting her. The doctor gave Fadumo a small exercise bike that was just pedals she could work while sitting in a chair. Fadumo didn’t like to do the exercise bike because she got tired very quickly - she could only pedal three times before she gave up. To help her, I made a game where we would trade the bike back and forth. If I pedaled five times, Fadumo had to do it five times too. Every day we would do a little more. After the year we spent together, her health improved a lot. She became more steady on her feet because of the exercise, so we could also walk outside. Fadumo and I took water bottles and went outside to walk around, and while we were walking, we shared our life stories.
Fadumo’s life story was an example to me of how to be strong in difficult times. In 1980 during the civil war in Somalia, Fadumo was with her parents and her little brother. One day the army came into her house and shot and killed her little brother and father. Fadumo fled with her mother to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where they lived until her mother passed away. Fadumo didn’t get the chance to go to school because in Ethiopia people have to pay for school. Despite her difficulties, she tried to build her life, stay strong, and get a job. A few years later, Fadumo got the chance to come in the United States. She did her best to be brave even though she didn’t have any family with her.
One of the ways I and my family helped Fadumo was to spend time with her during the holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims fast, live simply, and pray to help their faith get stronger. Fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset, and at sunset families eat a special meal together. Since Fadumo was lonely and fasting during Ramadan, I would go to her house and cook for her. When I worked, I asked my mom to give her food and check if she is doing well. Sometimes she came to my house and enjoyed breaking the fast with my family. Ramadan is a blessed month for the Muslim people and it felt good to include Fadumo in the celebration.
The day after Ramadan is the Eid festival when people go shopping together, dress up, and women decorate their hands and feet with henna, which is a plant used to dye skin and hair. During Eid we give each other gifts, spend time with family, and people are inspired to forgive and seek forgiveness. I went shopping with Fadumo, braided her hair, and gave her henna decorations on her hands.
One day after my family had lived in our apartment for about a year, my parents told me our family was moving to a house in a neighborhood far away. I had a hard time thinking about how to tell Fadumo we were leaving, and my mom helped me tell her we had to leave. She couldn't believe that I was moving; Fadumo was crying and she was heartbroken. Her sadness made me cry and feel heartbroken, too. Deep inside my heart, I felt like I wanted to stay with her but at the same time I had to go with my family. After we moved away, she moved back to Africa and we haven’t been able to keep in touch.
I will always remember her and the time we spent walking outside and telling stories with each other. I hope she is healthier and happier because of the time we spent together. I know that she felt better and was able to follow her doctor’s orders to walk more and get exercise. She felt less lonely and for a year she was able to share my family and celebrate special occasions with us. Even though we both had to move away, I hope that she continues to be happy and healthy and find new friends to help her.
The time I spend with Fadumo changed me a lot. Helping Fadumo made me want to help other people and do more good deeds. I feel like I'm kinder and more helpful, and it makes me feel that I can help anyone who needs my help. My conclusion is that the world is a better place when everyone is out helping each other.
Fadumo and volunteering have inspired me to become a teacher to help children get a good education and be successful in life. Fadumo and I shared the fact that we didn’t have the chance to go to school while we lived in Ethiopia. I have had only five years of school in my life since I moved to the United States. In many Somali families like mine it is easy to see how much better children do in school when they start at a young age. Fadumo and I often talked about how important school is to help people make a better life for themselves, especially for women and girls. This had helped me decide to pursue a degree in education and teach Kindergarten. I believe that helping children from the time they are young is the best way to make sure that they succeed in school and can go to college.
“Emilio…Emilio…Emilio,” she calls. It is probably around 10:30 pm and I have fallen asleep on the couch. I open my eyes to see the ceiling of my living room and that same name rings in my ears.
“Emilio,” she calls again.
I knew that name because it was my own, but the way she says it makes me more attentive than I usually am when it is called. She will ask me to do her a favor, I know this because it is the second day of the third week of the sixth month of school and I have done her this favor nearly every night for the past year. I sit up and turn towards her: a small, old lady sitting in a chair almost three times her size.
“Me acuestas?” she asks. Translated into English meaning: “Will you put me to bed?”
I know the routine well. I stand her up with both of her hands in mine and my feet in front of hers so that she doesn’t slip on the wood floor. I take her to the bathroom where I crack a joke to lighten the mood and break the silence that comes when I change her diaper and put on her pajama pants. I stand her up and take her to the sink. When she finishes brushing her teeth, I bring her to the bed, in reality my bed. I never mind the fact that my grandmother sleeps in my room. I figured that since she had to leave her own room in the midst of the Venezuelan crisis in 2016, the least I could do was offer her my own bed to sleep in. When I put her into the bed, she winces at the pain. Pain in her back, her hips, but most notably her knee. I apply a cream that is supposed to relax her muscles and relieve the pain her body. When I can, I lay next to her and play old songs in Italian and Spanish and show her photos of my friends and others I have taken with my camera. We sing, joke together and talk for a bit. I tuck her into bed and turn off the lights; she whispers a “Gracias Emilio.” I close the door and look her one last time in the eye, knowing that we will embark on the same thirty-minute adventure the next evening, or around 4:00am in the morning when she starts calling me to take her to the bathroom.
When I think about helping my grandmother, I feel a sense of pride in what I am able to offer her. Spending her days alone in our house watching the Catholic channel, Nostalgic movies and news from Latin America on our living room television set, she longs for the hour that I arrive home from school to greet her. I see it in her eyes when I am near her, and I know that in her heart she feels a great joy when I am there to help her. Yet at the same time I always feel that my grandmother is the one who seems to be offering me so much more than I could ever give to her. Before he passed, my grandfather had been my grandmother’s rock: a physical and emotional support for her for over fifty years. I admired who my grandfather was, and strove to be like him. However, I never thought that one day I would find myself in my grandfather’s shoes, taking care of his wife. When I help my grandmother, I feel myself becoming the grandfather I admired and strove so much to be.
I am sure that my grandmother never thought she would teach me things I need to succeed in life this way. Likewise, I never expected to learn the true meaning of service to others by taking my grandmother to the bathroom. The time I spend helping my grandmother teaches me more than I could ever learn from any textbook. My grandmother teaches me what it means to be a true human being whenever she allows me to help her in the most intimate of ways. Changing her diapers changes the way I see how I need to live my life.
For now, I will continue to live my life as I have been for that last two years. I will continue to care for my grandmother, and take every moment I spend with her as an opportunity to grow in love and character. I know who I want to become, but most importantly I know who I always will want to be remembered as: my grandmother caregiver.
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