by Cori Schimko
Participant, Urban Mitzvah Corps 2012
Never in my life have I had a summer as amazing and life changing as this one. At UMC, I’ve learned to challenge my mind in a way that I never have before. Though in previous summers I have attended sleep away camp, lived without my parents for an extended period of time, and roomed with other people, this experience has exceeded all of my expectations, and is unlike anything I had done in the past. Within just the first week, I had already made so many new friends, and over the past month, have been lucky enough to live not only with my two incredible roommates, but with a beautiful house full of people I now consider my family.
For the first half of my time at UMC, I worked at Play S.A.F.E., a fully subsidized day camp for children ages 6 to 12 who live in the New Brunswick area. My time there was challenging, but incredibly rewarding. I worked with a group of seven-year-old boys who were so amazing, and I was able to learn so much from them. I took care of and successfully lead my class, formed
relationships with some remarkable kids, and even picked up a little bit of Spanish along the way! It was really hard for me to leave Play S.A.F.E. after the three weeks that I was there, and I still miss my boys dearly, especially playing musical chairs and dancing to “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga!
Over the last three weeks, I have started working at Regency Heritage, a nursing home in the area. In the beginning, it took me a little time to get adjusted to the change. Going from Play S.A.F.E. to Regency is shifting between two completely opposite sides of an emotional and developmental spectrum. At Play S.A.F.E., I ran around and was always on my feet, working with young, active, inquisitive, and energetic children.
Quite the opposite, Regency is a calm, slow moving, reflective environment for the elderly, but a very trying experience in its own right. The work requires a lot of patience, and making the transition took a bit of time, but it has been worth it. Now, after the second week, I can say that I am in love with Regency! My favorite unit to work in is G2, which is the wing of the building where the residents with Alzheimer’s and Dementia stay. At first it scared me to work there, but as I visited more, developed totally different types of relationships with the staff and clients, and grew more accustomed to the different atmosphere, I conquered my fear and have come to really enjoy it.
All in all, I love UMC so much! I wish it lasted further into August just so that I could volunteer longer at each of my locations. Yet as the program is drawing to an inevitable end, I fully intend to enjoy this last week to its fullest.