Every week, I work with pediatric cancer patients for 2 hours. I am interested in pediatric health care, so this service, as all volunteering should be, is particularly interesting and meaningful. My shift unfortunately has many sleeping patients, so I often times help by decorating the play rooms or by getting coloring books for patients who are hanging out with their parents. However, when a patient is well enough or up to playing, the energy is fantastic. The hospital’s motto is that all employees and volunteers have the privilege to know the patients, and I feel this whenever I work or play with a patient. Even the smallest conversations brighten my day.
This summer, I shadowed a surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center during June and July. In addition to observing surgeries and clinic sessions, I was assigned a project in which I calculated the neutrophil to lymphocyte, 2 blood cells, ratio of patients in 4 finished trials. These patients had received varying doses of 2 immunotherapy drugs, ippilimumab and nivolumab. In this study, I was trying to find a connection between 4 weeks of blood samples and the patient’s overall survival. I am continuing my work on this project with a fellow, as we are writing a paper that will hopefully be published in a journal. The information and connections learned from this project may be the early detector of a patient’s survival, which would allow doctors and hospital staff to personalize treatment options efficiently.
During August, I was CIT a beginning chamber class at my camp. This involved helping the kids learn the music, grow as musicians, as well as giving private lessons to a camper each day. The camper, Myhe, I was assigned was ready to learn, trusting, and made the experience so much fun. I could not believe how much Myhe grew as a violinist during our lessons during 3 weeks, and seeing her respond so quickly to my teaching was really rewarding. I hope to be able to teach such wonderful kids again next summer with the same results of the experience.
This spring break, I travelled with Friends to Peru. We began our journey in Juliaca, where we visited a ruin where Incan rulers were buried, located next to a beautiful lake with a romantic mythical backstory. We ventured on to Puno for 2 days, visiting more beautiful and historic sites, such as Lake Titicaca. My favorite part of the trip was our time in Cusco, where we stayed with our host families for 5 nights. We spent time at Saqsaywaman, learning from a humorous tour guide about the VERY tall Incan people, the Moray ruins, which were my personal favorite, took a city tour of Cusco, and spent hours on Machu Picchu. We sat in silence many times throughout the trip, which helped me to appreciate the natural beauty and historical advances of the Inca people. My host family was so fun, and my Spanish comprehension and speaking skills have drastically improved. It was an incredible experience to be able to spend time with such charismatic and caring people. We then travelled to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon, where we spent much time connecting with nature and learning about the amazing ecosystem of the rain forrest. For our service project, we helped farmers by planting 70 trees of various fruits. I loved being able to plant and get a bit dirty while learning about the agriculture of Peru. The farmers genuinely appreciated our work and thanked us with delicious grapefruit and a demonstration on how to shoot a bow and arrow. The trip to Peru was a unique experience, in which I learned about a beautiful country with immense history, immersed myself in the culture, and improved my Spanish speaking skills.
All year round “Swim Across America” hosts swimming marathons from California to New York, in indoor and outdoor pools, in order to raise funds for cancer research. Swim Across America is an organization that allows people to swim for the cause of defeating cancer and raising money for research centers, labs, and hospitals. This past summer, I volunteered not as a swimmer, but a beach runner for the swimmers. This entails helping the swimmer out of the water, bringing them a towel, and a bottle of water. This ensures that the swimmer is safe after swimming either 15, 10, 5, or 1 k.
I love volunteering for this organization because your work is greatly appreciated by the swimmers and the gratitude is immediate. Swim Across America is a great cause and raised over $1 million this summer alone. Hopefully, I will be able to also kayak alongside a swimmer to make sure they do not have an emergency while swimming.
For the YPI project completed on Service Day, my group and I chose the devastating issue of HIV/AIDs in NYC. This disease can be transmitted through blood transfusions, needle exchanges, occupational contact, sexual relations, and pregnancy. Specifically, any contact with amniotic, genital, cerebrospinal, and synovial fluids can cause people to develop the disease. This issue popularly arose in New York City in the 1980’s, mainly in homosexual men and continues to trouble all races and sexualities of the population of New York City. In New York state, 129,000 people live with HIV/AIDs, 80% of this population resides in New York City. This year, 4,000 people will be diagnosed with HIV/AIDs in New York, and in the first half of 2011, 93% of the women who were infected were either black or hispanic. A positive correlation exists between homelessness and HIV/AIDs, since it is such a costly disease that can affect many parts of the body. With the weakening of the immune system, many health problems arise that need medical attention. In order to protect the city managed services, the New York City council spends over $10 million per year on this issue. We found an organization, originating in New York City, that thrives to serve and aid people in this unfortunate state of living with HIV/AIDs with no shelter or services to live for much longer.
Housing Works, originally a sect of Act Up that aims for the same goals, is a non for profit organization that seeks to help HIV/AIDs ridden people who are struggling with shelter and finances. They offer several programs and services, as well as the most important to this population, housing. With locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan, singles, families, women, and people in a transgender transition stage can all have a place to sleep at night. In addition to housing, Housing Works, supports clean needle exchange, dental care, home care management, harm reduction, and medical care centers in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Through thrift and book shops, the organization raises money to support these services and the people who depend on them. The stores also hire clients that have or do currently live in their housing in order to get back to a sane life and learn how to be successful.
When we began researching this issue, I did not realize how drastically this virus still affects people today or the fact that homelessness is related to the contraction of HIV/AIDs. Through research, I have learned more about this issue and how to develop presentable information on such a difficult topic. I also learned how to coordinate meetings with and discuss these issues with professionals such as the people we met with at Housing Works. One of the most challenging aspects of this project was finding a way to convey the audience that HIV/AIDs is more present than one would expect through our slide show and the significance of the care Housing Works provides for people. www.housingworks.org