Most teens spend their summer by the pool, playing video games or working a summer job. At MD Anderson, 25 teens spent four weeks of their summer volunteering as part of the Teen Volunteer Leadership Program in Cancer Care.
MD Anderson always has a large number of volunteers assisting patients and caregivers. But during the summer, more young faces in blue jackets are seen, as teens between the ages of 14 and 18 from more than 15 Houston-area schools volunteer in various positions around the hospital.
“Becoming a volunteer at MD Anderson is one of the best experiences anyone can ever have,” says Bovey Liu, a 14-year-old student at Carnegie Vanguard High School. “Volunteering and helping others are one of the best ways to leave everyone smiling.”
The program requires a big commitment from the teens, who participate in one of two, four-week sessions in which they work eight-hour shifts in four volunteer positions. Their time is spent in the retail gift shops or Appearances, a specialty shop that serves the distinctive needs of cancer patients, and they’re paired with an adult volunteer to work in a clinic. Other positions include patient navigator, coffee cart, hat cart, popcorn cart and the rose garden program.
While Liu enjoyed all his positions, his favorite was the rose garden program, where he would cut flowers from the cancer center’s rose gardens and deliver them to patients’ rooms. He found that the rose deliveries could bring a smile to any patient’s face. He also got the chance to use his nine years of piano experience by playing for visitors.
Lydianne Juguilon, a 16-year-old student at Incarnate Word Academy, found the hat cart to be the most gratifying volunteer position. She enjoyed the meaningful conversations she had with patients and their families while handing out free hats, scarves and pillows.
“The stories they’ve told us about their lives are amazing,” Juguilon says. “Patients have opened up to us. Some have asked for a hug, others have asked for a prayer for their family. You get to connect with people on a very personal level.”
Interested in volunteering this summer?
Applications for the summer 2017 MD Anderson Teen Volunteer Leadership Program in Cancer Care will be accepted from Friday, Jan. 6, at 5 p.m. through Monday, Jan. 9, at 5 p.m. For more information, check out the program's homepage.