Tue Oct 21 10:38:22 PDT 2014
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Healthwise: Madison House Volunteer Program
Madeline Curott

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va.--Many organizations rely on volunteers for a number of reasons. For Martha Jefferson, volunteers help the hospital stay on top of the customer service its committed to providing its patients. Right now, more than 150 students from the University of Virginia are donating their time to help in various units throughout the hospital through a program called Madison House. "Madison House as a whole is an independent organization at the university that's focused on volunteering in the Charlottesville community," said head program director Anam Jafri. Medical Services is a sub-unit of the organization that places student volunteers in the hospitals and free clinics around Charlottesville. Jafri said, "You really get to see how these organizations operate on a day-to-day basis." Martha Jefferson has been working with Madison House for about five years and this year, the hospital has seen the program double in size. Around 150 students are spending about three hours a week volunteering in nine units throughout the hospital, from Food Services to ICU and everything in between. Amir Tabaian has been volunteering since he was a First Year at U.Va. and is now a program director, "I've had a little bit of a mixed bag during my time here, but I think it's ultimately a good thing because it's more experiences and you get different perspectives from different people." "Three hours out of my week where I can brighten someone's day and interact with people that aren't in the U.Va. bubble. It's great! It's an awesome opportunity and experience," said pre-Med student Jessica Chaoul. The student volunteers fill water pitchers, take out patients' food trays, answer phone calls... "Anything really that the nurses are too busy to do, we can help out with," said Chaoul, who is also a program director with Madison House. The students had varying reasons for volunteering at the hospital. Program director Chris Millikan said, "I was just looking for volunteer opportunities to get some hours for medical school." While Chaoul had something very specific in mind to help with her future as a doctor, "I kind of wanted some patient interaction before committing myself." Students admitted they are walking away with much more than they thought they would when they first started the volunteer program. "I think the biggest thing I've learned is how to connect with people who I don't have anything in common with,” said Millikan. “I used to have a lot of trouble doing that, but I just think that if you just have a little bit of empathy, you can really realize what someone else is going through and start your connection off that and who knows what it can go to?" "You become more aware of the little things in life and how meaningful they actually can be,” said Tabaian. There are around 3,000 student volunteers participating in the overall Madison House program.

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