If you’ve visited Providence Care Hospital recently you may have noticed a lot of people sporting red shirts.
In the hallways, on the units, you’ll even see the bright threads around the property.
No the colour red isn’t trending, not right now anyways.
Look closely and you’ll see the word volunteer written across the top, and the people wearing them are this year’s summer youth.
“The Summer Youth program is an opportunity for students between the ages of 14 and 17, to volunteer at the hospital to get the 40 hours they need to graduate from high school,” explained Chris O’Connor, Volunteer Coordinator.
There are more than 30 youths participating this summer.
The program kicked off in July and runs until late August.
The teens give back Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“They get to be on the units with staff, visit with patients, host activities, and they do some fundraising as well,” said O’Connor.
“They’re like a breath of fresh air,” added Janet Hunter, Volunteer Services Director.
“They bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and they always have a lot of fun things to talk about with our patients.”
It can be a little intimidating for the youth to strike up a conversation with a patient they don’t know, but Kate Selkirk says it’s worth it.
“There was a woman who had her door shut all the time. One day I just knocked and said ‘it’s Kate from Summer Youth’. She told me she liked to be alone, but I asked if she was sure and mentioned that it was beautiful out,” the 15-year-old recalled.
“We ended up going for a walk and it just sparked from there, and I would visit her every day. When she left the hospital she gave me a big hug and said without me, she wouldn’t have had the courage to leave her room. That made me really happy.”
And it’s rewarding encounters like that, that keeps Selkirk coming back.
The teen actually completed her 40 hours two years ago, but loves the program so much, she keeps signing up.
“When you walk into someone’s room and talk to them for five minutes, that conversation can make their whole day. I just love to make people happy,” beamed Selkirk.
“My first year I think I did 80 hours, the second year like 120 hours, and this year I’m hoping to do even more.”
And she’s not the only one.
Zahraa Abdul Hasan started volunteering with the Summer Youth program when she was 15-years-old.
Now 17, Abdul Hasan is wise beyond her years.
“Volunteering is something you choose to do because you’re giving your gift of time. And you truly improve a patient’s quality of life by spending time with them,” the teen said.
“Life isn’t always fair, but volunteering reminds people that there is positivity and good in the world, and people need that.”
Abdul Hasan is so passionate about giving back, that she not only volunteers for the Summer Youth program, but also all year round.
“I spend time with patients every week. In three years, I think I’ve spent over 1000 hours volunteering in the hospital,” grinned Abdul Hasan.
Because of their dedication, Selkirk and Abdul Hasan were made Summer Youth leaders, and help mentor first timers.
“My main lesson to them is to find a person whose door is shut or has hardly any visitors, because those are the people that need a volunteer to visit them the most,” said Selkirk.
“I want people to know that they have the potential, just spend one day here and you’ll see,” added Abdul Hasan.
“Kate and Zahraa are superstars!” exclaimed Hunter.
“They’re so caring and compassionate, it’s lovely to see. They’ve really shined during their time here and the patients really love and enjoy their company.”
“I think it’s really cool that they both have their own personalities and have something different to offer,” added O’Connor.
“Kate has lots of energy and hutzpah, while Zahraa forms these incredible relationships with most patients she meets. Both have this special quality that isn’t always found in people, let alone Summer Youth.”
Both teens have a desire to work in healthcare and say this experience is helping them achieve their goals.
“I was thinking about being an occupational therapist,” said Selkirk.
“This program gives me a lot of opportunities to interact with people, which gives me a leg up.”
“I’d like to be a neurosurgeon,” added Abdul Hasan.
“I see a lot of patients with neurological problems and I think when you’re a surgeon you physically get to help a patient, and I want to know that I’m physically doing something to help them.”
Not only are the duo gaining valuable experience but they also say they’ve made a lot of new friends.
“I’ve actually formed a family and second home here,” smiled Abdul Hasan.
“Yeah, this is like a second home,” echoed Selkirk.
And they’re not the only ones that feel that way.
The Summer Youth program is so popular that many of the teens continue to volunteer even after they get their 40 hours.
It may be wrapping up soon, but one thing’s for sure Abdul Hasan and Selkirk will be putting on their red shirts proudly for years to come.