The new year enables everyone to aspire for good health, spend more time with family, and other blessings. However, many people may take their blessings for granted and may never give back to those they are grateful for.
In 2006, my father was diagnosed with stage three cirrhosis of the liver, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. My entire family was shaken to its foundation and for several years, we struggled immensely with his illness. In November of 2013, I lost my dad to alcoholism. This was without a doubt the hardest moment of my life.
In hopes of giving back, I took on an internship at WestCare Foundation. West Care is a national non-profit organization that helps individuals in the community struggling with addiction. Their facilities provide care through prevention education, housing, mental health crisis, intervention, and outpatient and residential treatment. My father spent time at two rehabilitation centers here in Fresno, Nuestra Casa, which focused on Hispanic males, and West Care. Initially, I was placed in the same residential program where my dad stayed in; however, I have recently spent more time volunteering in the women’s unit. These women and men both struggle with a range of different substances and are admitted there for health and/or legal concerns. Although West Care is an in-patient residential program, they have a walk out policy where clients can leave if they choose to do so. This rehabilitation center is divided into two sides for men and women. Some women and men have children, who may also reside with them during their time at the center.
In the beginning of October, I began my journey at West Care by doing minor tasks that later progressed to assisting in the completion of client questionnaires. This internship quickly showed me the pros and cons of what living in a rehabilitation center could be like. Although I knew what it was like to be around someone who struggled with substance addiction, I quickly realized this type of work was completely different than what I was used to. I’m currently in my last year at Fresno State, majoring in Liberal Studies with much of my work involving education and schooling. However since day one, I felt like WestCare would allow me to grow in areas that were foreign to me. After my third visit, I became familiar with the clients’ daily routine. The women there quickly grew fond of me and working with them has definitely been an enjoyable learning experience.
One memory I recall that puts a smile on my face was when I spent my Halloween serving at West Care. I brought candy for the clients and their children. The families that came to visit told me, “Thank you. Some of these children might not even be able to go trick-or-treating tonight.” This was such a rewarding moment for me to know that something as small as candy would make someone’s day. I was truly touched. Therefore, it has been so gratifying to put smiles on the faces of the women and children.
In the last several years, Fresno County has increased the number of people admitted to treatment centers. Substance abuse has been known to not only hurt the individual, but their loved ones as well. While at West Care, I gained a deeper appreciation for what centers like this do for people struggling with addictions in their lives. West Care has been a great place to learn more about what is being done for people who deal with these issues and I truly believe this is a great way to help our community. I want to thank West Care for allowing me to complete an internship there and for the care they provided my dad while he spent time there as a patient.
It feels so empowering to share my story! I hope that this blog draws awareness to these issues and can help motivate others to try to step out of their comfort zones and serve the community at large in different ways.
What will you do to give back this year?
~ Ambassador Sharon