It is common for many of us, especially older adults, to feel isolated and lonely. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this isolation worse. Through Circle of Care’s Phone Pal program, volunteers provide companionship and social contact to older adults through weekly phone calls. As a volunteer with the program, Aida Nabavi and her Pal, an elderly gentleman, communicate a couple of time a week – and sometimes every day. As his Pal, Aida’s role is to check in with him on a regular basis to see if he has everything he needs including groceries and medication, and most of all to be his friend. Aida has been volunteering with Circle of Care since 2015 and is a champion of the Phone Pals program as she wholeheartedly aims to address her Pal’s isolation and seeks to find ways to improve the overall qualify of his life.
So Aida tell us how you first got involved with Circle of Care and what do you do as a volunteer?
When I was in undergrad, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would work with my busy schedule and Circle of Care’s Phone Pal program offered me that flexibility.
The first Phone Pal that I was assigned to was an elderly gentleman who wanted to talk on the phone everyday as he was concerned about his health. From our first phone call and over the years, we developed a great friendship. It felt great being able to help someone else but also to find a friend. Generally with my Phone Pals, my role is to check in and see if they are doing well mentally and physically and if my Pal has everything they need. Simple things like asking someone how their day went; do they have plans; and giving them ideas for things they could do can make a big difference in someone’s life if they are isolated. With my current Pal, who I have been matched with for two years, rather than speaking on the phone, we email frequently because as he was a Professor and writer before his retirement, he explained that he would be better able to express himself through emails. He often writes me beautiful and thoughtful messages about life, philosophy, and every day subjects and through this we have created a mutual friendship. He has written great books, which I have read and spoken to him about.
Tell us what motivates you to stay involved year over year supporting this program?
My motivation comes from identifying what my purpose in life is, which is to help others in need. As a Phone Pal, I am invested in these relationships and it hurts me to think that there is someone out there that feels lonely and isolated. However, knowing that I have the power to easily change that feeling of isolation and loneliness by providing my friendship motivates me to continue. Also, respecting our elders is a big part of my culture and I have been taught from an early age to love, respect, and help my elders. Lastly, this is a mutually beneficial volunteering role – not only have I been providing support for my Pal, but he also provides me with his time and genuinely cares for me. For example, if I mentioned to my Pal that I was not feeling well, he would check up on me and see how I am feeling. Despite the gap in our ages, we have become great friends.
What has been the most rewarding aspect about volunteering with Circle of Care?
Circle of Care started originally as a program for the elderly Jewish population in the city, but gradually over the years it expanded its services to individuals of other faiths and cultures. I believe part of what makes Circle of Care so successful is that the organization and its volunteers have created a very strong community—one that is focused on helping people in any way possible. In addition to the Phone Pal program, throughout COVID, Circle of Care provided volunteers to assist with meal deliveries, getting the elderly registered for vaccination clinics and arranged drivers, and many of us also got groceries and dropped them off for those who were unable to do it themselves. Every volunteer is always willing to lend a helping hand and the organization is very strong and supportive of its volunteers. Being in a strong organization who is organized and focused on reaching its purpose naturally drives one to continue supporting its mission and the people that it targets to assist.
What advice would you give to other younger lawyers who are looking for the opportunity to give back to their own community?
There are many opportunities to give back in our communities and it is very rewarding. We just need to prioritize our time efficiently and identify what is important for us in our lives. Volunteering adds a lot of meaning and purpose in our lives beyond our jobs. Not only do we contribute to the society, but volunteering is great for our own emotional and mental health. We get to connect with others and create genuine friendships with people who also care for others. It really takes a small part of our days to just listen and be a friend to someone else. Throughout this experience, I am very blessed and grateful to have met such a knowledgeable and genuine Phone Pal whom I call my friend.
To learn more about Circle of Care and the Phone Pals program visit: https://www.circleofcare.com/phone-pals