August 12th is International Youth Day, with this year’s theme being International Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages. At Island Health, our Step Up Youth Volunteers give their time, creativity, and passion to make a difference in the lives of patients, residents, clients, and staff.
Through volunteering on-site and connecting virtually, the program gives the youth an opportunity to “Step Up” in three ways: by practicing Health’s C.A.R.E Values (Courage, Aspire, Respect, Empathy), learning about clinical and non-clinical careers in healthcare, and through leadership by sharing ideas and projects.
Here is the story of one of our youth volunteers:
Originally from South Korea, Brian Lim moved to Victoria in 2015 and quickly made Victoria his second home. While planning to study at Stanford in the fall of 2022, Brian still reflects on the time that he spent as a student volunteer with Island Health.
“I started volunteering with Island Health in January 2019 when I was in Grade 9. Since I have an interest in pursuing a career in healthcare, I thought that this would be an interesting path for me to take. The opportunity to help patients in a one-on-one dynamic was very beneficial, not only for any career opportunities, but also as an individual demonstrating community service.”
“I started volunteering at Glengarry Hospital for the first year and my role was a social support volunteer, which meant that I met up with two elderly patients and we played card games, watched movies or I read them books. That was a really valuable first experience for me – having the one-on-one time and also helping to transition me into this environment. I was able to observe the doctors and nurses and learn from them about how to care for the patients with kindness. I tried to recreate as much of that positivity and behavior to the patients that I was serving, and that lead to the next years of volunteering.”
While Brian spends a lot of time doing typical teenager activities including tennis and basketball, he’s always had a soft spot for music.
His mother plays violin and instilled in him a passion for the instrument at a young age.
While volunteering with Island Health, Brian was able to channel that passion into another form of caring for the patients that he visited regularly.
“In September of 2019, I transferred to the Step-Up Youth volunteer program at Royal Jubilee Hospital and I really got inspired to bring my violin in and play to patients. The experience playing violin and volunteering was one of the most pivotal I’ve had. Watching their faces as I played had a big impact on me and really made me appreciate that small things can mean big things to others.”
As with most things around this time, COVID threw a monkey wrench into Brian’s volunteer work.
“Unfortunately, during COVID, all the volunteers were told to stay home, but during the summer of 2020, we did have the chance to continue to volunteer virtually.”
While volunteering with patients during this time, Brian and his brother Kevin also found various projects to keep them busy during the pandemic.
One of the ways that they brought joy to the people in the hospital was to create a large-scale symbol of their good intentions from afar.
“One project that we worked on was folding 1,000 paper cranes to donate to the hospital. This is an ancient Asian gesture that symbolizes a strong wish that the patients get better as soon as possible. Moments like that made us realize, that even though we couldn’t be there in person at the time, we could still make a difference in the lives of the patients and the staff.”
Brian describes himself as a ‘shy youth’, but feels that his time with these volunteer programs really helped shape him in to a much more outgoing young man.
“The truth is, it’s not just about helping other people physically, it’s also the emotional side too. To put yourself in interesting situations, and interact with people. Talking to new people was sometimes challenging, but this really helped me open up and helped me to understand other people better and I think that those skills, not just in healthcare but in life, are incredibly important.”
After a year-long hiatus, the program will be back for fall 2022.
The Volunteer Resources and Engagement team is actively recruiting between youth between 15-18 years of age for Port Hardy, Cowichan, Port Alberni, Victoria, and Nanaimo.
If you know of a youth who is interested in gaining volunteer hours and learning about careers in healthcare, encourage them to apply online before the end of August.