Written by Stephenie Hou, S-L Community Partner

#CapturingCommunity is a series where we, in the Service-Learning community, are able to sit down with staff from our community partners, faculty at Northeastern, and students to hear about their experiences with Northeastern’s Service Learning program. We welcome Stephanie Hou from Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly!

Hi everyone! My name is Stephenie Hou and I am the Intergenerational Program Manager at Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, a community partner with Service-Learning (S-L) at Northeastern.

I have a great appreciation for S-L and was actually first introduced to the idea as an incoming freshman at Bridgewater State University. BSU offered an opportunity for first year students to live in the Service-Based Residential Learning Community (RLC) in Woodward Hall, a residence hall dedicated primarily to S-L communities. There were three floors: 1) Math and Science RLC, 2) Service-Based RLC and 3) Honors RLC.

When I was in high school, I joined a youth group that instilled in me the passion to serve and make a difference around my home city-Fall River, MA. I knew that I wanted to continue volunteering when I went to college and realized that living on the Service-Based RLC was the perfect opportunity for me to do that. I decided to live among other students who were passionate about service and spent most weeks volunteering together and doing reflections on how our service applied to the social justice topics we were learning about in the classroom or at different events we had. It was one of the best decisions I made at BSU because I found lifelong friends and got to know my community better through my volunteer experiences. S-L continued to be in my life after freshman year, when I joined the RLC as the Senior Programming Assistant, planning events and service projects for the first year students who came after me.

In my role today at LBFE, I manage our intergenerational CitySites Program and get the chance to work with S-L student volunteers from NEU/BC everyday. I love working with students in this capacity and essentially “being on the other side” coming from a non-profit/managerial point of view and inviting students to serve with us. Our CitySites Program is an opportunity for students in college/high school/middle school to join us at elder residential buildings or senior centers around Boston and participate in various activities such as BINGO, adult coloring, card games, board games, socializing and more. You can check out our website calendar for more details about CitySites, or watch this video highlighting our program.

LBFE has worked with students from various S-L courses including: Community Learning, Advanced Spanish, Advanced Chinese, Foundation Year, etc. Our vision is to bring older and younger participants from different backgrounds and cultures together to meet their neighbors, build friendships, and provide a welcoming space to engage in fun activities. The students bring so much energy and enthusiasm as well as language skills that help us reach a greater number of elders.

My favorite part about my job is visiting the multilingual sites, hearing positive stories of impact and seeing language exchanges happen between the older adults and students since a majority of the elders we serve speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Spanish and English. I’m grateful for this mutually beneficial partnership because students are building meaningful connections off campus and older adults are receiving support and friendship, ultimately working towards our mission of relieving isolation and loneliness.

To learn more about Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and how you can get involved, click here!

Adapted from S-LOG post March 21, 2019.

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