Three juniors who are aspiring public health humanitarians have formed a new community-service group on campus for students interested in the public health field.
Marcus Karim ’14, Priscila Laforet ’14 and Tracie Goldsmith ’14 launched the Public Health Volunteers Club at the end of last semester, with help from Kate Leifheit ’12, who graduated in May, and Janice Jaffe, the McKeen Center’s associate director for community-based courses and research.
“We’re interested in pursuing careers in health care, and are interested in the public health sector,” Laforet said. “We wanted to provide students with a similar interest in public health a resource to get involved in the community through service in a health care setting.”
It was important for the co-leaders of the Public Health Volunteers Club to keep service as its main priority. “As part of the Bowdoin Volunteer Corps, we really value interactions with the community through service-learning projects,” Karim said.
The club initially formed a partnership with the Mid Coast Senior Health Center, located just a few minutes from campus. The club will also be working with an organization in southern Maine called Partners for World Health that collects discarded medical supplies to give to clinics in disadvantaged regions around the world. Karim said that once the group is more rooted, it will reach out to more local health organizations to see if they could benefit from student volunteers.
Forming Partnerships with Seniors
Three staff members from Mid Coast Senior Health Center — Sally Fitch, Cindy Hughes and Charlotte Trufant — recently visited campus to tell a group of prospective student volunteers about the kinds of activities students could do with volunteers.
“They like to be challenged,” Fitch said, of the senior citizens who are alert and able. “They like to learn about travel, and they like slide presentations by students of their study abroad trips.”
Hughes said that the residents who have dementia or Alzheimer’s often enjoy sitting with volunteers and sometimes talking, sometimes just holding hands. “Some of them will just smile at you,” she told the students, and then reassured them: “You are making a difference.”
The three women suggested students come in and sing, play music, do some easy baking or organize word and trivia games, all activities the residents love to do in the hours before bedtime. Other elders like to listen to poetry read aloud, or have their nails done. “The ladies love that,” Hughes commented.
“You might gain some really good friends out of this,” Fitch said.