Elana Spievack - Next Generation Teen Leadership Council
How long have you been a DOROT volunteer?
I have been a DOROT volunteer since the summer of 2014.
How did you get involved with DOROT?
The very first time I heard about DOROT was when I was seeking a meaningful summer internship opportunity. I heard amazing things about DOROT from my grandmother and other family friends who have volunteered at DOROT. I was immediately intrigued and applied to DOROT’s Summer Teen Internship Program.
What type of volunteer activities do you do at DOROT?
I worked as a summer teen intern over the course of three sessions. During these sessions I had the privilege of being exposed to a variety of volunteer activities. The most memorable were my visits to the elderly. These visits included friendly visits, birthday visits, and technology visits. I looked forward to each and every one of these special visits. I formed extraordinary bonds with the seniors. I also had the opportunity to plan, shop, and cook meals for them. I especially loved eating these delicious meals together with the seniors and enjoyed seeing their smiles and feeling their deep appreciation for our efforts. Another incredible activity was planning for and participating in University Without Walls, a program designed to connect and create special learning experiences for seniors in their homes. The highlight for me was this past summer when I had a unique opportunity to work with Old School Films. They taught me film production and trained me to interview seniors on camera. Together we produced a documentary based on an interview with a senior to whom I became especially close. This was truly the most incredible learning experience for me. I am also a member on DOROT’s Next Generation Teen Council. As part of Next Generation, I volunteer at package deliveries and represent DOROT at public events. Through my work at DOROT, I was inspired to bring DOROT to my school and started a DOROT Club at SAR High School. Our goal is to raise awareness about DOROT and to get people involved with this unique organization. We also participate in package deliveries and plan several school events to raise money for DOROT. Last year we were very successful selling hot chocolate during a lunch period. This year I look forward to recruiting many more of my peers to join the DOROT Club and to plan other exciting events.
Of course, I also enjoy doing office work with the DOROT staff. Getting to know the amazing staff is part of the DOROT experience!
In what ways has your DOROT volunteer experience impacted your life?
The DOROT volunteer experience has helped shape me into the person I am today. Through DOROT I have learned leadership and communication skills. I have been given a variety of responsibilities, which involve organizing events for the seniors, preparing speeches, leading group discussions, and facilitating conversations at teen lunches. My relationships that I developed with the seniors at DOROT have had the greatest impact on my life. I have learned so much from their wisdom and life experiences. I cherish the time that I have spent with them and continue to learn from these very special people. I derive a real sense of joy from knowing how much the seniors appreciate my visits and from knowing that I have and will continue to make a difference in their lives. I have learned that giving is getting. Connecting with the seniors as well as connecting with such a diverse groups of interns has truly enriched my life.
DOROT has also influenced me in my everyday life. As a result of my experiences, when I am sitting on the bus or even walking down the street I feel an immediate connection with the seniors around me. I am cognizant of their needs and rush to help them in any way possible by giving them a seat or helping them cross the street. Similarly, although I have always been close to my grandparents, I now am more attuned to them. I call them more frequently and visit them more often. I have developed a special sensitivity and understanding of the elderly in my larger community.
What motivates you to continue volunteering at DOROT?
What motivates me to continue volunteering at DOROT is that I know I make a difference in the seniors’ lives and that at the same time they make a difference in mine. I have enjoyed meeting with and working with so many seniors and love hearing their incredible stories. I learn so much from their wisdom and I know they appreciate my visits. I leave every day with a huge smile on my face. The connections I have made with the seniors are strong and everlasting. I could not imagine a better place to volunteer than at DOROT. It is truly amazing and rewarding to work with the seniors at DOROT and seeing them smile after each and every visit drives me to want to come back again and again.
Most memorable volunteer moment:
My most memorable volunteer moment was working with Ms. Roth, a DOROT senior. She is a Holocaust survivor who survived three concentration camps. She is a heroine and a true mentor for me. I worked very closely with her while I interviewed her to create a documentary of her life experiences. She shared her stories with me. Her strength, enthusiasm, and incredible smile despite the horrors that she witnessed, made a huge impact on me. She modeled and taught me to never give up, to always be strong and to remain positive. She inspired me to always have faith and to be grateful for the little things in life. Most importantly, I will never forget her message to me to promise to share her story with others and future generations. My time with Ms. Roth was beyond moving and inspirational. Recently, I was fortunate to meet Ms. Roth at my synagogue outside of DOROT. We were both so happy to see each other. I sat next to her for the entire service and we continued to share our special connection together.
What would you want other volunteers to know about volunteering at DOROT?
I want to spread my enthusiasm and passion for DOROT and to let them know about the amazing opportunities that they can experience by volunteering. I want to convey how instrumental DOROT can be at relieving social isolation. I want to advertise how successful DOROT is at bridging the gap between generations. I would love to share how rewarding it is to give to these seniors and how much you actually receive from forming relationships with these remarkable people.
Anything else you would like to share?
I am so incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to volunteer at DOROT. I have met so many special people and have formed everlasting bonds. My hands-on experiences have taught me things I could never have learned from any book or classroom setting. I am grateful to the seniors for sharing their stories and values with me. I am appreciative of DOROT for giving me the opportunity to grow as a person and to connect with so many diverse and amazing people.
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