What draws a young person to hospice volunteering?
It’s in the family for Priya Adhikari. Her older sister led the way volunteering for Suncoast Hospice while attending Palm Harbor University High. Priya apprehensively followed, starting her Suncoast Hospice volunteer service as a high school freshman. It was meant to be.
“At first, I didn’t want to volunteer because I didn’t know if I was emotionally strong enough. I love it here. It has been one of my favorite places and I’m so sad I’m leaving, but I know I will come back to volunteer,” Priya said.
Rewarding Relationships and Service
Now a senior and college-bound, Priya has made remarkable academic and volunteer achievements. She has recently been named our Volunteer of the Year Outstanding Young Leader Award winner.
Priya pours her heart and kindness into her service. She has participated in cheer teams and party pals celebrations with patients and families, helped edit a patient’s lifetime legacies video, assisted with volunteer training, served on the teen leadership board, as well as provided office, resale shop, pediatric program, community outreach and special events support. Her impact is tremendous as she builds so many caring connections and friendships with patients, families, staff and volunteers.
“I like every part of it. My volunteer coordinator Kathi Wendt has become one of my closest friends. I love her. Helping with volunteer training is always a fun time. Sometimes, meeting patients is sad but it’s so worth it on the cheer teams. I don’t go in expecting gratitude from patients, they just give it. Hearing their stories makes me happy and I share my stories and they love it. It’s just like forming friendships,” she said.
One elderly married couple made a particularly special impression.
Priya shared, “I remember when we first started making visits and we’d see this couple every week. They were so loving and kind. We celebrated their anniversary. They reminded me of my grandparents who live in India. When the husband passed away it was very hard, but getting to know them and their love for us was wonderful. Having support from Kathi was incredible. She was there for us in coping with that loss.”
Her hope is that more people in the community will become involved with Suncoast Hospice.
She added, “The attitude, care and comfort of hospice are revolutionary. It’s not just the health part, but the emotional part, too. I think if teens come volunteer and stick with it, they’ll love it. I’d like to see more of them jump on the lifetime legacies program because it’s amazing.”
More than Hospice
Another major support Priya received here was help coping with the tragedy of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016. She found great unity coming to our Clearwater service center for a community talk in honor of the victims facilitated by our community counselors and spiritual care and other staff.
“I was in shock for a while. There were 18 year-olds and other people who were supposed to be there at the club to celebrate, have fun and be who they are. I was heartbroken. I am a part of the LGBT community. It was a big group that got together at our service center. It helped so much being all together and the support was amazing. I appreciate that we offer more than hospice for the community,” she explained.
Future in Health Care
Like her sister, Priya plans to continue a life caring for others in health care.
She shared, “My sister is pre-med in college. She and my parents are my main support system. There are so many different things I’m interested in, so I’m leaving my options open. I’m thinking about medical school to be a psychiatrist for the military or OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist). I would love to do Doctors Without Borders, that would be a dream.”
Do Good – Volunteer!
Are you a high school teen, adult or group who wants to make a difference? Be an Empath Health volunteer. Find out more online or sign up for a volunteer orientation near you.