Governors State Student Gains More Than An Internship

January 25, 2016

Jessica Ayala is working toward her bachelor's degree in Community Health at Governors State University. To complete her program, she needed an internship that closely related to her major. She selected Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly and enjoyed the experience so much that she volunteered above and beyond her required hours. The two elders she met have become a part of her life.  

How did you learn about Little Brothers?
I needed to complete an internship to finish up my degree. When I met with my advisor, he was giving me options of places to go. Hospitals didn’t seem exciting. I felt like working with elders would be more comfortable for me. Little Brothers was an option he thought would be a good fit.

As a visiting volunteer and an on-site volunteer, what has your experience been thus far?
I started off visiting two elders about once a week, now I visit them every two weeks and I help out around Little Brothers.
I see an elder at a nursing home who has family, but they live too far away to see her. She’s so happy and everyone is always talking to her. She’s very different from my other elder who lives at home by herself. She does not have any friends, so she’s always talkative and happy to see me. She loves company and we go out to lunch and grocery shopping. It means a lot to her, so I usually stay 4-6 hours.

Have you always liked to volunteer?
Yes, I started volunteering at different organizations in high school. I’ve volunteered at the Salvation Army and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

How is your experience as a visiting volunteer helping you with your major?
Little Brothers really opened my eyes about how depressed someone can get. Hearing that before Little Brothers started visiting, one of my elders would sometimes sit and scream because she had no one to talk to. She would sometimes sit at home in the dark. She was really sad.

Tell us how how you the project you are working on to find elder-friendly places around Chicago.
My elder talked about wanting to see the places she’d gone to with her husband and friends back in the day. She’s on the Southside, so when we go out, we’d swing by places she remembered to see if they’re still there. Over the summer, we created an elder-friendly places guide for other volunteers and staff to use.

Jessica graduates in May 2016 and plans to pursue her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy.

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Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly is a national network of non-profit volunteer-based organizations committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly. We offer to people of goodwill the opportunity to join the elderly in friendship and celebration of life.

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