As a prospective medical student, Krishna Patel has always sought out volunteer opportunities in human service settings – and as it happens, most of them have involved working with children. This summer, when the Hoover native worked at CJFS as a Birmingham-Southern College Hess Fellow, it was her first experience working with older adults. “Now I realize there is this whole other age group that needs assistance. It was an eye-opening and heart-warming experience,” said Krishna, a chemistry major who hopes to graduate from Birmingham-Southern in 2018.
Krishna, 21, spent the first part of the summer conducting client satisfaction surveys with CJFS clients in the Care Management, Personal Care, CARES and Just Like Family programs. For clients in the Personal Care program, the surveys were conducted in the home. “Many of these clients were really happy that I was coming to see them, because most live alone and like having some company,” Krishna said. Although the surveys took only about 10 minutes, the visits could stretch much longer. “They would tell me about past experiences that shaped them to be who they are today, and they would show me pictures of their children and grandchildren,” Krishna said. “They also wanted to know about my life and my future plans. As I shared with them my hope to attend medical school, some said that I have the people skills they like seeing in their doctors, which was really nice to hear.”
Krishna also worked at CARES, CJFS’ respite programs for families affected by movement and memory disorders. She explained, "Working at CARES helped me continue developing my people skills and taught me new strategies for engaging people with special cognitive needs". While Krishna had meaningful encounters in both settings she also encountered clients who expressed frustration and bitterness about the limitations of age. While these interactions were not always pleasant, for Krishna, they underscored the need for more people working and volunteering with older adults and broadening their understanding of aging.
“This internship has opened a lot of new perspectives for me, ideas about career options I hadn’t considered before,” Krishna said. “I’d like to continue to work with older adults, because it’s important and because I personally have received a lot of blessings from this work.”
NOTE: The Hess Fellows program at Birmingham-Southern College, part of BSC’s Krulak Institute for Leadership, Experiential Learning, and Civic Engagement, places students at leading nonprofit advocacy agencies in Birmingham and across the United States. To learn more about this amazing program, click on the photo below:
The 2017-18 Hess Fellows, along with two of the program’s sponsors, are (front row, from left): Carter Hancock, Tatiana Neuman, Ronne Hess, Donald Hess, Chaise Sanders, and Divya Desai; (back row, from left): Emily Thronton, Ashu Mukkavilli, Kelsey Peake, Krishna Patel, Cayla Bush, Caleb Walden, Thomas Mitchell, Desi Owens, Juliana Schock, Caroline Grove, Aditi Prasad, Dr. Kent Andersen, and Katy Smith. Not pictured: Drew McDonagh.