Chicago Buck-I-SERV: Misericordia

India Hinton

 

Buck-i-Serv Trip to Chicago, IL

 

For my STEP project, I traveled with several other OSU students to Chicago, Illinois to work with Misericordia during May 2017. This non-profit program offers residential, occupational, and community support for individuals with developmental disabilities, a majority of them adults. I spent a week at the site, learning what services Misericordia provides and immersing myself in their daily routines. I attended many of their work sites and participated in community leisure activities that the residents enjoyed after their work day.

 

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I have known for many years that I want to dedicate my life to helping others. If I have the ability or opportunity to make someone else’s life better, I want to take advantage of that, whether it is major or minor. As a pre-occupational therapy major, it has always been my goal to work at a children’s hospital. Many pediatric occupational therapy patients have been diagnosed with special needs or some sort of disorder that prevents them from completing everyday activities. Due to the fact that I will potentially be working with a special needs population, I wanted to immerse myself in a special needs community to get a firsthand look at their everyday lives. When I noticed that Buck-I-serv was traveling to Misericordia, I knew this would be an amazing opportunity, personally and academically.

 

This trip has transformed me and my world views in more ways than one. I have always felt a connection with the special needs community. Of those I have met, their carefree, loving nature has always drawn me to them. Prior to the trip, I assumed the Misericordia community would follow an academic structure, treating the individuals as students or children. This always seemed to be a pattern to me throughout society, as not everyone is familiar with how to interact with these individuals. As the week went on, I soon realized how my assumptions were proven wrong. The staff of Misericordia were so friendly, patient, and kind to the residents, and did not treat them any differently than their co-workers. Many of the residents were aware of their special needs and did not let this stop them from their achievements. While society is becoming more and more accepting of individuals with special needs, this experience showed me how much we can still improve. Nonetheless, I felt a great sense of hope for the future of this community and their acceptance of others.

 

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

As soon as I arrived at Misericordia, I knew I was in a tight-knit community. With over 600 residents at the facility, I have never witnessed so much support within a group of individuals. It seemed as though everyone knew each other, and there was virtually no sense of betterment from the Misericordia staff—everyone was treated equally. The interactions and relationships between everyone a part of Misericordia demonstrated a great sense of connectedness. Everyone knew the volunteer coordinator, who not only knew every resident’s name, but also the job they were currently involved in.

 

There are several areas of employment in which the residents work, almost like a small town. There’s a bakery, coffee-making station, garden, laundry facility, recycling center, and several art areas for residents to express their creativity. Every space contributes to the community in some way, whether it is inside or outside of campus. For instance, coffee and baked goods are sold online for anyone to purchase, art is sold to help support the non-profit organization, and items are recycled to be reused on campus, just like any other community. I was truly blown away by the unlimited activities for the residents that gave them a sense of purpose without compromising their personality traits or independence. The individuals had a voice in what job they participated in and loved every second of every day. I was so inspired by their work ethic and light-heartedness during their work shifts.

 

One of the best aspects of this program was the fact that they promoted branching out into the Chicago community several times a week. The volunteer coordinator informed me that they often take a group of residents to Chicago White Sox games. This not only immerses them into a larger community but allows them to experience everyday activities such as purchasing food or following social norms. I was very happy to learn that Chicago warmly welcomes residents outside of Misericordia and that the residents are not confined to the campus.

 

Finally, the personal connections I made with some of the residents is something that will never leave my memory. During our service, we spent time in different work areas to get a feel for what the residents did on a daily basis. I was nervous at first, but as soon as I walked through the door I knew I was welcome. Each and every resident greeted me with a smile, introduced themselves, and immediately wanted to start a conversation. I did not even feel like we were doing work because they were so much a joy to be around. I grew close to a few select individuals throughout the week, and it was very difficult to say goodbye.

 

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

I initially decided on this particular trip because I felt it would benefit me in my future profession. There are countless areas of occupational therapy, and although I have always wanted to be in pediatrics, I felt it would be great for me to explore the adult population as well. One of the reasons I have always wanted to work with the special needs population is because I have felt that society has continually done them a disservice. While we are improving, there is still a lot of work to be done in order for them to be treated with the respect they deserve. However, seeing the interactions between the staff, residents, and people outside of Misericordia has helped me see the positive transformation society is finally going through with the treatment of individuals with special needs. This transformational experience is valuable to me not only because I have witnessed hope for the future, but I know now that it will continue to improve when I am an occupational therapist myself. It showed me that I need to continue my passion for helping this population become as independent as possible without belittling them. I have shared my Misericordia experience with almost everyone I know because it has had such a great effect on me. I cannot assume that society knows exactly how to treat individuals with developmental disabilities, but I also cannot assume that they have bad intentions. All in all, this experience has taught me the values of patience and kindness. I learned these virtues through the residents, faculty of Misericordia, and other members of the Chicago community. Their continuous support for one another has helped me get a look at what I may experience in my professional life, whether that is with my patients or my fellow coworkers, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.