Jess Baker

Alternative Break Memphis

Ten Keene State College students all from different backgrounds set upon a journey to Memphis, Tennessee, on the Pediatric Healthcare Alternative Break trip to assist in any service opportunity they could.

Contributed Photo by Jess Baker

Contributed Photo by Jess Baker

This life-changing experience is one that is hard to put into words because there doesn’t seem to be a description that gives it justice. The team leaders, Jess Baker and Darren DeSena, did an incredible job picking a group consisting of eight versatile and brilliant individuals. Ranging from education majors and psychology majors to health science and nursing majors, the group dynamic, which was filled with first year students to seniors, could not have been better.

There was never a dull moment with this group, and our love for each other could be considered borderline obsessive. The dynamic that was created within our group allowed all of us to be comfortable with each other, and we created life-lasting bonds.

We were graciously housed at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, located five minutes from Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Our Volunteer Service partners at Le Bonheur felt like family by the end of the first day. As volunteers, we were given a wide arrange of opportunities

Contributed Photo by Jess Baker

Contributed Photo by Jess Baker

to serve in the hospital. With the children’s well-being as our number one priority, our team members went from room to room offering crafts, blankets, coffee or just a welcoming smile to anyone who needed it.

By day one, every volunteer had already started making strong bonds with the children and their families. If a volunteer didn’t have a specific task to do, we would be a “unit buddy,” which consisted of walking around the units and simply spending time with the patients. The parents of many children still have to work to support their health care, which often leaves children alone for the majority of the day.

As volunteers, we spent as much time as we possibly could with children who were alone. Although many would say that we were making a difference in these children’s lives, we would say they were making an even bigger difference in our own. Watching a child’s face light up as you walk into their room is an indescribable moment– the littlest things really do go such a long way and this trip is a testament of that. The parents who remained with their children were often tired and emotionally strained, and as volunteers, we offered our time with their child in order for the parents to take a shower or simply to have a minute for themselves.

By the end of the week,every volunteer wanted to constantly be a unit buddy because of all of the amazing relationships we had built. Lending a helping hand to the nurses, parents, children and child health workers instilled a humbleness inside every single person on this trip that changed us all forever. On Wednesday, Child Life services put on a “Teddy Bear Clinic.” Each child picked out a stuffed animal of their choice and made a hospital bracelet and named their new buddy. Throughout the event space, the children went through multiple

Contributed Photo by Jess Baker

Contributed Photo by Jess Baker

fun and interactive levels of diagnosis for their bear. They got to listen to their bear’s heart, give their bear a cast, even a pretend CT scan and prescriptions were available. The nurses and the pharmacists were so gracious and fun when running the stations and the children loved being able to make their teddy bear feel better. This experience has opened all of our eyes to the importance of showing and sharing compassion and kindness.

As representatives of Keene State College, we used all the values that make

our college an amazing community and shared them with our community partner. Whether it was saying a simple hello in the elevator or playing a board game with a child, we tried to share kindness and spread smiles. This trip has changed all of us and has opened our eyes to the struggles within health care. We all plan on taking steps within our community here at Keene State College to take what we have learned and apply it to our daily lives.