By Harry Glazer
Volunteer opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. And as anyone who has pitched in for a good cause can tell you, some volunteer roles are more fulfilling than others.
Some of the very best volunteer experiences result when you match a volunteer’s interests and skills with the needs of the organization.
Such was the case for Kiran and Kalyani Balkaran, from Plainfield. Kiran, aged 17, and Kalyani,15, are brother and sister and both are students at Union County T.E.A.M.S. Charter School for Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Science and High School/College Leadership Academy.
As modern teenagers, Kiran and Kalyani are ‘digital natives’ - fully immersed in and easily adept at learning and using different technology. They also love music. Their mother Cynthia Purnell Balkaran, a driver for Parker’s Adult Day Program, inquired in May if there was a summer volunteer opportunity for them at Parker. Senior Manager of Volunteer Services Catherine Martino found the perfect match.
Parker has started a new Music and Memory program, to provide iPods to our Elders with playlists customized to their musical preferences. The program was inspired by academic research, and a growing body of anecdotal evidence, which shows that when provided with music that matches their interests Elders become far more animated and engaged.
Parker has been collecting donated IPods and music CDs for the Music and Memory program for months but needed the person-power to digitize the music and create the playlists. When Kiran and Kalyani stepped in, the work quickly got underway.
For five and a half hours each workday, from June through August, Kiran and Kalyani worked to digitize over 300 music CDs and create playlights for the different Elders who are test piloting the Music and Memory program. The resulting collection of digital music files can be mixed and matched for different elders and used repeatedly in the years ahead.
“We are delighted with Kiran and Kalyani's efforts,” said Catherine Martino. “They moved the Music and Memory program ahead by leaps and bounds and have gotten us to the finish line. We simply could not have gotten this program started without them and we are very grateful for their work.”
Kiran and Kalyani were very pleased with how they spent their summer. “I had a fun time with the work I did here at Parker,” said Kalyani. “I enjoyed doing this project because I know that it will be a nice thing for the residents.” Kiran agreed, adding that “It’s always good to help out the elderly and do things to help them be happy.”
We thank Kalyani and Kiran for their wonderful contribution to our homes.