Rudo Ndamba ’20 and Austin Chiles ’22 Create a Sense of Belonging Through Inter-generational Friendships with the Adopt-A-Grandparent Program in Walla Walla, WA

We started the academic year on a great note with over 60 students signing up at the activities fair to participate and volunteer for the Adopt-A-Grandparent (AAG) program. Volunteers were matched with residents at Odd Fellows nursing home from the 3 care centers and we are very happy with their commitment to the program and their grandparents. The program has impacted both the residents and volunteers’ lives positively. One first-year volunteer has been going to see her adopted grandmother more than once a week and says their relationship has made the transition from home much easier and bearable. This is just one of many Whitman students who have found their place in the world through community engagement.

Our first event, “Pink Day”, was on the 25th of October and it was in commemoration of breast cancer awareness month. The objective was to spread awareness of the disease and advocate for the search of a cure, but like every other AAG event, we also wanted to have some fun. Volunteers and their adopted grandparents engaged in activities like face and nail painting as well as cupcake decoration. Whitman College’s Pre-Health society provided an informational booth with self-test pamphlets and some pink goodies. Our volunteers were most helpful in running tables and making sure residents were well taken care of. This was our biggest event and, in retrospect, turned out much better than we had planned.

On the 15th of November we held our last event at Odd Fellows which was “Winter Wonderland” themed. Residents and volunteers came together to make Seasonal greetings cards for their families. It was a joy to witness the unifying effect of crafts and have the volunteers connect with not only their grandparents but their grandparents’ families.

One of our greatest accomplishments this semester was being able to expand the program to Parkview Memory Care which is a community that provides care, comfort and safety to individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Our first step in this direction was to participate in their annual Christmas party by bringing some volunteers and musicians from Whitman who performed for the residents. One of the performers said it was one of the most profound moments she ever had in music and that resonated with all of us. This experience opened Austin and I up to the use of art as a therapeutic tool in the elderly community and we are enthusiastic about continuing this work throughout the year.

I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Council for Independent Colleges and the American Association of Retired Persons who provided funding for us to be able to branch out and expand our work.








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