Our Volunteer Experience.
“While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing.” - Iroh in Avatar, The Last Airbender. When we signed up for our RC 1000 writing class for Fall 2019, we had no idea that we had signed up for a service learning class and we didn’t really know what to expect going into it. Our class was separated into groups that each had different topics to write about based on their volunteer time at the Hospitality House. We all felt a sense of nerves going into this because none of us had ever volunteered at a homeless shelter before, but after going into it with an open mind, we came out with a great experience.
For our first experience at the Hospitality House, they put us to work in an unexpected task. As a group they put us to work in the garden, and we were a little confused because our group's main task was to make relationships with the residents. As we were working in the garden, we quickly realized that we were able to make relationships with the residents anywhere we were. There was a resident who came to us as we were working and started a conversation with us. He was telling us how much he loves the garden and he showed us the chickens that they have. The residents were always walking around speaking to us and asking what we were doing, and were so appreciative of our help.
The same man who came and talked to us in the garden also gave us all handmade necklaces at separate times. On one occasion, he came and gave one of us a necklace when we were all together as a group for the first time. Another time, he came and gave one of us a necklace as we were serving lunch. He noticed that one of us did not receive one, so he left to make another and came back with a specially made beaded necklace.
During the time we were serving lunch, another man came and stirred a conversation up with us. He was talking about how he plays the spoons and how he has performed with Old Crow Medicine Show, and he even invited us to go watch him perform in the future. We see him around campus all the time and he is always so friendly to us.
On our last trip to volunteer at the Hospitality House as a group, we were initially put to work helping to sort through clothes in the attic. We were sorting out the clothes that we thought could be used to keep people warm and putting the other clothes in a pile that we later bagged up to be donated. After our work in the attic, we were sent to the kitchen, where we helped get things set up and then made one hundred sandwiches. Though we did not always get to interact with the residents every time, it was always a rewarding experience to see people smile at us when they knew we were coming to help.
They were all so welcoming, and we got to the point where we almost felt bad because we were originally only there for a class, and even with them knowing that, they were still very appreciative of our help. Overall, we have learned in our experience at the Hospitality House that once you walk through those doors, you are entering a family atmosphere and nobody asks questions as to why you are there, they simply just welcome you in. Even though this course is over, we still plan on going back to the Hospitality House to volunteer because this place has made such an impact on us, and will certainly impact anyone else who chooses to volunteer here in the future.