Team Indy’s Living History Project

By Mensah on October 5, 2011 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni

by Nate Mensah,  AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Indianapolis

On September 17, Team Indianapolis participated in the Living History program at the Richard L. Roudebush Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Indianapolis. This project allowed the team to interview patients and learn about their life stories. The VAMC provides acute and chronic care for veterans as well as serving as a rehabilitation facility. This was a special event that was first proposed as an idea by Jason Grisell (Program Manager of the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis) as a 9/11 service project. In order to maximize the number of patients interviewed, Team Indy volunteered along with other AmeriCorps Alumni, AmeriCorps VISTA members, and Public Allies.

Our visit was special because many of us bonded with the patients we interviewed. The volunteers decided to pair up and interview in teams.  It would be difficult to say who enjoyed chatting more: the volunteers or the patients. Our conversations ranged from the standard topics of interests in music, movies, and foods, to some very unexpected yet entertaining topics. A couple of our team members had a full lecture on the harmful aspects of aspartame and the benefits of eating raw vegetables! Others encountered some powerful emotions when the veterans reminisced about family members and friends.

The goal of this project was to learn more about the patients, and to determine if there are ways the hospital can improve the level of care the patient is receiving by meeting an unmet need that they aren’t aware of. It was fascinating to have conversations with these individuals, and here how their time serving our country changed their lives. All of the volunteers enjoyed learning about the patients, and by the day’s end, numerous patients were very pleased to have the chance to talk with new people as well (even on a Saturday morning!). In fact, they were hopeful and eager for us to return to do the event again. It meant a lot to us that the patients seemed to truly enjoy talking with us.

As a thank you for allowing them to be interviewed, we provided a care package consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, a journal, a pen, and an activity booklet with crossword puzzles. Even though we were only there for a few hours, we know of the long-lasting impact we have made on the veterans, and fully enjoyed doing so!

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