Diana Abdelahad and Carolyn Anderson have been volunteering at Children's Hospital Boston for the past 17 years, and after 34 years of friendship, they think their joint volunteering is what keeps their bond strong. "This is our time together and we get to do something for someone else," says Abdelahad. "It's brought us closer."
Anderson and Abdelahad first considered volunteering here when they realized, "We both love kids, but we don't have kids, so why not?" says Anderson. "At first, I wasn't sure I could handle seeing sick children attached to machines and IVs, but I'm still here because it turns out that it's such a rewarding experience," says Abdelahad, as she rocks an infant to sleep. "It took awhile to get used to," agrees Anderson. "But once you get over the initial fear, you take more from it than even the patients do."
Abdelahad and Anderson remember that two decades ago, volunteers carried beepers and were paged to any floor that needed help. But now, the pair gets to go to the same floor every week, 10 East, where they can help infants and their families. As regular evening volunteers, the friends are pros at getting at least one baby to fall asleep each week. They're also immensely comforting to family members of the babies. "A lot of parents don't want to leave their children alone at all, so just holding a baby so the parents can go and make a phone call or get something to eat is a help to them," says Anderson.
"We love it when friends volunteer together," says Barbara Blundell, MS, supervisor of Volunteer Services. "Over the years, we've seen so many people bond through volunteering. Strangers become friends for life and some have even gotten married. Families always tell us that volunteers make their stay less scary and I think all of our volunteers know how much of a difference they make."
Abdelahad and Anderson now have nearly 20 years worth of shared Children's memories, and they still tackle their tasks with gusto, from helping patients do their laundry to delivering flowers to taking a baby for a walk. They operate on the buddy system, but after years of experience they've adapted different methods. "Diana is a riot because she's known as the 'sticker girl,' since she gives them to any child she sees—on elevators, in halls, everywhere," says Anderson. Abdelahad loves how her friend, whose volunteer badge is stuck with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy pins, jokes to connect with patients. "She always teases the kids, asking them what colleges they went to," she says. "We've made great friends here in every way you can imagine—other volunteers, patients, nurses," says Anderson. "We love coming here. It's a part of our lives."
Celebrate National Volunteer Week April 27 to May 3. A dinner will be held May 15 recognizing volunteers who are celebrating service milestones. For more information, contact Volunteer Services at ext. 5-7885.