Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG) is a non-profit organization that serves as a hub for volunteering and giving, and provides support services for those in need within our community. During the summer, I had the opportunity to be part of RCRG’s Seniors Community Support Services (SCSS) team, in the role of a Program Assistant.
Various services are offered through SCSS, with the goal of maintaining seniors’ independence and improving their day-to-day quality of life. Whether it’s shopping for their groceries or just providing companionship over the phone, these services have become increasingly important amidst the trying times of the pandemic, because of the larger physical and mental impact on the senior community.
Like most businesses and organizations, RCRG’s workplace services, culture, and procedures have been drastically impacted by COVID-19. I joined the team in a phase when all these adjustments and changes were still being tested and applied.
Over time, the Shop-by-Phone program became the focus of my duties in the SCSS department. With so many aging clients having difficulties getting access to basic supplies, in addition to their ever-increasing physical needs, the program has become more important than ever to those who require day-to-day support. Other services and programs, such as friendly visiting and transportation, underwent major revisions or had to be cancelled outright due to health and safety complications.
What I’ve Gained
At the start of the work term, I set a few learning objectives:
• Improve overall understanding of a professional office work environment
• Develop improved understandings of the intricacies of communication
• Expand population pool that I can professionally and smoothly work with, including fellow co-workers, seniors, and Cantonese speakers
I had plenty of opportunity to practice and develop what I had originally set out to learn - and much more! - due to the varying, flexible nature of the responsibilities in this position, many of which I did not consider when I started.
Problem solving was often needed for clients in the Shop-by-Phone program, who would sometimes have items missing, or would accidentally be charged twice.
With the large volume of grocery orders that are handled during the pandemic, orders occasionally get mixed up somewhere in the process of payment, shopping, and delivery. Thanks to the warm and welcoming nature of the staff here, in addition to a thorough introduction and orientation to the office, getting acquainted with the office environment and culture was far easier than I had initially anticipated. I quickly found the nature of the office was that of real dedication to the community, and a commitment to supporting those in need.
My Accomplishments and Contributions
It was both inspiring and fulfilling to contribute to a workplace with such a community-oriented focus. Getting firsthand experience directly assisting in the day-to-day matters of senior clients was a humbling and educational experience. You can learn so much from a senior just from a quick conversation with them.
I was also able to be part of RCRG’s continuing development of its COVID-19 procedures. One such example was looking into, contacting, and handling the installation of a plexiglass safety screen partition for the agency vehicle.
Being fortunate enough to have access to my own vehicle as well, I was able to help deliver groceries and medical prescriptions to clients on multiple occasions while we were shorthanded on volunteer drivers. I was able to assist and personally handle shopping troubles clients had, alongside my regular duties of taking client orders, and enrolling new clients in the programs they wanted.
Another project I played a part in was the process of screening volunteers by conducting interviews and referral checks, keeping in contact with them via email, and recording their hours in our database.
I was also assigned with gathering data and organizing client statistics into a made-from-scratch Excel sheet to keep track of client demographic information. The sheet compiled information necessary for reports such as average age, gender, and first language of those who utilized our services during that fiscal quarter.
In my time here, RCRG has also been offering caregiver programs and workshops. I had the opportunity to both participate and assist in their development. Recognizing that many clients would be unfamiliar with newer technologies such as Zoom video conferencing, I created a small, easily accessible guide for these clients, with both visual and written directions for those still getting used to the technology.
Being my first ever co-op work term, every project and task was a new chance to apply and learn new skills in an office environment, something I have never had the opportunity to do.
My ability to communicate was substantially improved after being in so many new situations with new problems to solve, not to mention my many interactions with a very diverse client base. Listening to their concerns and stories, helping them work through problems, informing them of services, or just having a casual conversation with them was a very organic method of improving my communication skills. Besides, what better way to learn about talking to clients than talking to lots of different people in different circumstances?
They were simply cases of applying communication and problem solving, both of which are areas of self-development that are applicable to every facet of life. This new lifestyle amidst the pandemic has undoubtedly created unique opportunities to experience and apply myself to the workplace, and I have grown much as individual because of my time here.