Upon joining Beach Cities Health District’s (BCHD) Brain Buddies Volunteer Program, Edwina Klein knew she wanted to have an impact in others’ lives through volunteering. What she didn’t know, is how much volunteering would impact her.
Edwina became a BCHD volunteer one year ago when she was looking for a local volunteer opportunity where she could utilize her background in psychology and art therapy. The Brain Buddies program, which involves implementing various activities with clients who are experiencing cognitive health issues, seemed to be the perfect opportunity to merge her somewhat contrasting expertise.
Upon enrolling in the program, Edwina was matched with Steve, a brilliant, 80-year-old, retired aerospace engineer who had survived a stroke, but was left with Aphasia—a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate. After witnessing Steve’s frustration with his speech therapy exercises, Edwina slowly convinced him to give coloring books a try. Week after week, she has watched Steve progress with the amount of detail and intricacy he adds to his designs, as well as the confidence and joy the new activity is bringing him.
“Every week his work is more intricate and now has progressed from Mandalas to world landmarks! Coloring that is asymmetrical and abstract is currently peaking his interest as he is growing braver and trying more complex, abstract patterns,” says Edwina. “Honestly, a lot of what he is doing would be too difficult for me and my level of patience.”
But Steve isn’t the only one benefiting from these interactions. Edwina and Steve seem to truly enjoy each other’s company, often connecting about cars, real estate, and gardening. “Life is better when we are of service,” mentioned Edwina, “especially when the positive results are pretty immediate. Seeing his work and happiness brings me joy!”
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a BCHD volunteer, please visit bchd.org/volunteer for a full list of opportunities.