Amid a global pandemic, the community is facing many changes and challenges to its normal routines and activities. At the Center for Community Engagement and Service, volunteering is a normal part of students’ lives that has been altered due to the coronavirus. Although many volunteer opportunities cannot happen the same way they previously did, one service advocate, Chloe Gillerlane, has found joy in continuing her volunteer work.
Gillerlane is a member of the Student Education Association, was a service plunge facilitator this past fall, and has been a regular volunteer in at Child and Family’s Sandpipers program in the preschool room for over a year. She loves her position at Child and Family and going there is always the highlight of her week.
“I enjoy reading books to the children in the classroom, doing arts and crafts with them, and watching them grow and learn new things,” Gillerlane shares. As an early childhood education major, Gillerlane believes her work at Sandpipers is beneficial because she is watching and learning from teachers who are where she hopes to be after college. “The preschool classroom teachers, Miss Maggie, Miss Elizabeth, and Miss Kennedy have taught me so much and I have learned things I never expected to be so important,” says Gillerlane.
Gillerlane shares how she is even more grateful to be volunteering there during this strange time because of the opportunities it supplies her, and she appreciates the preschool teachers’ support. “They have welcomed me into their classroom and have helped me get more experience than a lot of my peers, especially because junior early ed majors are not able to go into the classroom this semester due to COVID.”
Volunteering at Child and Family in the Sandpipers program has been different as well because of the coronavirus guidelines, and many things are different than Gillerlane’s past year volunteering there. All the adults, volunteers, and teachers in the classrooms wear masks, but the Rhode Island government has mandated that because the children are so young, they do not have to wear masks. Although Gillerlane does not need to reinforce mask wearing for the children, there are still some difficulties due to the masks. “It can be very challenging for the students to understand what we are saying because the masks block our mouths and voices,” Gillerlane shares. “A lot of students cannot hear what you are saying, so you have to repeat directions multiple times.”
Despite the differences this year, Gillerlane still finds joy volunteering at Child and Family and reflects on past experiences there as well. One of her favorite memories happened during her first week ever interning there in October of 2019.
“I was sitting with one of the students reading her books, and she kept asking me to read more and more books. She was sitting next to me nicely and answering all of the questions I asked her about the book,” Gillerlane shares. “Eventually, even more kids came over and sat next to us and listened to the stories I was reading. They were all doing such a good job listening and sitting still. One of the teachers in the classroom noticed what was happening and said to the students ‘I love how nice you are all sitting and listening to Miss Chloe read you stories!’ After I had finished reading almost every book in the classroom, the kids dispersed and went to play. The teacher who had commented on the students’ good behavior pulled me aside and told me that she has never seen the kids in her classroom sit that long for someone who was reading books. She said I must have had a special touch or voice or something because they loved reading with me. Hearing this was really nice because it made me more confident in my own teaching and my decision to work with children.”
Gillerlane’s growth in confidence about her future that she has gained through her volunteer experience is inspiring, and she says that her volunteer work at Child and Family has been one of the most amazing experiences she has ever had at Salve. “This opportunity has been so wonderful and educational,” Gillerlane says. “I am so thankful to Kelly and Kathleen for giving me this opportunity and the teachers at Sandpipers for helping me learn more about the field I want to pursue a career in!”
The light of volunteering that Gillerlane has found in the darkness of the world around her is a wonderful example of the joy that can be found through helping those in need.