January is National Mentoring Month!

“The essence of mentoring is the sustained human relationship: a one-on-one relationship that shows a child that he/she is valued as a person and is important to society.” -Virginia Mentoring Partnership

Did you know the CCE has community partners throughout the Richmond region where UR students can mentor in one-on-one relationships with youth? This month, as we celebrate National Mentoring Month, we invite you to explore spring 2015 mentoring opportunities.

Celebrate Thank-a-Mentor Day by stopping by the Think Tank on Monday, Jan. 26 between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Write a postcard to thank your mentor (past or present) and pick up a tasty treat!


Showing Up at Virginia Supportive Housing

Noah Hillerbrand, ’18, is a Bonner Scholar. His reflection describes his time at Virginia Supportive Housing, a nonprofit that aims to end homelessness by providing permanent housing and support services.

My favorite community engagement time during this Bonner cycle was serving dinner at Virginia Supportive Housing. It reminded me very much of my past service at Inspiration Cafe. In both cases, it is the conversations I have with the people there that engage me the most and leave me feeling changed. In fact, during the time at VSH we had so many “cooks in the kitchen” that there was very little for me to do during parts of the prep. This gave me the opportunity to sit and talk with the people there. It can be difficult at first to strike up a conversation with someone who’s story is so different from my own, who’s identity is different than my own. On one side, you have me. A college student. High school graduate. I come from a stable home. On the surface, my identity is different than the people I spoke with at VSH. But by showing vulnerability, opening up and learning about people with different stories, I found that our identities had many similarities. Some of these things are seemingly shallow. Both myself and one of the patrons there identified as football fans. Other things were more personal. And as to be expected, there were many things that were different. But the sharing allowed us to connect.

Earlier tonight, I went to UR Zen meditation. One of the topics we discussed was that when someone is facing a problem, it is not always the best, or necessary, to help them. Sometimes we don’t have the skills to help. Sometimes it is important for the person to fix a problem independently. However, it is very important to be in support of someone. For me personally, this also includes a religious aspect. I like to call it the ministry of presence. This is really what I find important about doing service like we did at VSH.

It is important to open up and learn from people whose identities are different than our own. We can’t completely solve the problems many of the patrons at Virginia Supportive Housing, but by showing up and sharing, we support them.

Exploring Healthcare in Richmond

Mony is a junior Bonner Scholar who grew up in Egypt. She is double majoring in Healthcare and Society and Psychology. She has been serving at Crossover Clinic for the past two years. CrossOver Healthcare Ministry is Virginia’s largest free health care clinic, serving more than 6,815 patients every year.  The majority of the population they serve are the working poor who often have to choose between food, shelter and health insurance and cannot qualify for Medicaid.

So what work do you do at CrossOver?

“I work as a patient advocate. I am usually in the front office: checking patients in, making appointments, if they had questions about bills or questions about physicians, I answer them. If they have concerns, I talk to them and see how I can help and if I can’t help, I talk to my supervisor. I also translate for Arabic speakers. I love the experience of seeing what happens inside the exam room.”

Did you find anything surprising when you worked at CrossOver last summer?

“When I translated for Arabic-speaking patients, it was shocking how many details got lost because I couldn’t necessarily translate word by word into English. There are words that don’t directly translate. So that was a little bit tough because sometimes there were some medical terms in English that are very different in Arabic.”

Did you volunteer back home?

“Ya, I volunteered a lot back home. I worked in first aid organization that certifies people in first aid and CPR. I also volunteered during the revolution [in Egypt] with the Red Cross and I volunteered with the doctors and nurses in Tahrir square. People came with injuries, and I also listened to people’s stories and saw the proof of their stories.”

Do you see any of the skills or experiences from your service relate to what you want to do in the future?

“We work with people who are uninsured or have really low income. Well, since I started working at CrossOver, my ultimate goal is to work on national healthcare policy and provide insurance for as many people as possible because it is really awful not to have insurance. The government is supposed to help people–all of the people–and the doctors have an oath to not do any harm. My time at CrossOver has also taught me about how to be dedicated to one task and how to build a backbone and communicate effectively with patients in the clinic.”

This interview was produced by Bonner Senior Intern, Aarti Reddy, and Junior Class Representative, Raef Lambertson.