The last 18 months has been a time of re-inventing Adventures in Caring (AiC), in order to make the mission sustainable and our services accessible. We had to invent an entirely new way of operating, from the ground up. This is embodied in two new initiatives that will take us into the future: Student-Led Intergenerational Initiative and Online Education Initiative.
1. Student-Led Intergenerational Initiative
April 2019 Volunteer Training: New trainees and assistant trainers with founder, Karen Fox.
First is the much-loved Raggedy program. After the fires and mudslides of December 2017 & January 2018, most local charitable dollars began, understandably, to go into emergency services. AiC suffered huge losses of funding.
As a result, by December of 2018 we could no longer afford to hire our full-time Director of Volunteers, Shelley Rickard, who has been with us for fifteen years. It was a sad day for all of us to lose Shelley. The question before us was how to continue the program without a full-time volunteer director, and if we could, in what form? I met with three pre-med students in December 2018, in a small restaurant in Isla Vista, and asked them if they could help.
Byron Rosenthal, Jesse Basra and Shane Pathania, all Raggedy volunteers, were members of the Mu Delta pre-med fraternity on the UCSB campus. I asked for their help, and they responded with an enthusiastic “Yes, we can do this!”They suggested we form an Adventures in Caring on-campus organization. Together we created five committees through which the work on campus would be organized.
Next, I reached out to a former Raggedy volunteer, Anmole Ahdi, who is taking a gap year between graduating and applying to medical school, in order to care for his mother after his father died last year. I asked him if he could work for AiC as part-time Program Coordinator (all we could afford) and he agreed. Anmole now coordinates with the five on-campus committee leaders.
The committee leaders for the coming school year are: Shane Pathania (President), Krishna Balagopal (Outreach), Jesse Basra (Program Documentation), Andrea Ure (Continued Learning), Isabel Arana (Service & Fundraising).
Together with Anmole, Byron (who is graduating) April 2019 Volunteer Training: New trainees and assistant trainers with founder, Karen Fox. Teaching the Art and Practice of Communicating with Compassion since 1984 2graduating) and myself, we planned out the coming 2019 fall quarter, with who does what week by week.
This has tremendous potential. Our volunteer internship now has three tiers in which students can participate, with increasing layers of responsibility and skill:
- As Raggedy volunteers befriending the most socially isolated frail elderly in our community. Through practice, they develop the compassion, emotional maturity, and ability to communicate with those who are seriously ill, injured and dying—at a standard that helps to restore well-being.
- As training assistants coaching new trainees. They learn how to give insightful, constructive feedback at a standard that develops this skill set in others.
- As committee leaders organizing the program. They learn the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle of continual improvement, and how facilitate learning and planning conversations. At our monthly meetings they report to the AiC board of directors and respond to board questions. In doing so they build very practical project management skills.
Thanks to Byron’s leadership and the members of this team, AiC is now positioned, both on campus and in the community, to run the program this way throughout the coming school year. Other fraternities and sororities are already expressing interest. The experience we gain in the next school year will also prepare the program to be replicated on other campuses. This is one pivotal way that the Raggedy program can be sustained and grow in the future.
As a key supporter of Adventures in Caring, you play a vital role in this program’s continuance.
Despite losing a full-time, highly experienced director of volunteers and reinventing the structure of our program, we continued to deliver high quality services. Our standout team of 45 UCSB students befriended 800 frail, socially isolated elderly residents in the following nine local skilled nursing, memory care, and assisted living units—throughout the year.
Alexander Court Memory Care
Buena Vista Care Center
Casa Dorinda Skilled Nursing
Alto Lucero Transitional Care
Heritage House Assisted Living
The Samarkand Skilled Nursing
The Californian Skilled Nursing
Valle Verde Skilled Nursing
Vista Del Monte Memory Care
2. Online Education Initiative
“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive. Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way.”
—Atul Gawande, MDb, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Well-being also affects the competency of the care that’s given.
Over and above conducting our local volunteer program, AiC has built an entirely new way to make our training programs accessible to professional and volunteer caregivers anytime, anywhere.
Production of our first online course, Oxygen for Caregivers, began during the Thomas Fire in December 2017, and we completed it in June 2019. These last eighteen months have been a strenuous test of our ability to turn adversity into opportunity. Kudos go to Bent Myggen (course production) and Natalija Glusac (business development) who have worked for most of those months without any pay at all, and the remaining months for a lot less than minimum wage. It has been my privilege to join them in putting all of our savings at risk and making this sacrifice. We have all done this while also being full-time caregivers of other members of our families.
Oxygen for Caregivers is made by caregivers, for caregivers. It is a distillation of practical wisdom from the dedicated nurses, doctors, therapists, chaplains, first responders and volunteers of the Santa Barbara community. It is an eight-hour self-paced course, made of twenty-minute sessions and five-minute steps, so that it can fit into a tight schedule. It is accessible to anyone with a desktop, laptop, pad or smartphone.
The high production value makes it a pleasure to watch and to listen to. Oxygen for Caregivers truly lives up to its name. It is a breath of fresh air that actually reduces your stress as you take it.
We are using the University of North Carolina’s Posttraumatic Growth Scale to measure the improvements it produces in well-being. There are professional benefits too —it is approved for continuing education units for nurses and other health professionals.
This online course is a gift Adventures in Caring is giving to the world: a truly effective program that gives caregivers the ability to move from the suffering of burnout and compassion fatigue, to the well-being of a life they love to live. Now it is available to the world, and all proceeds from it will return to support volunteer caregivers in the Santa Barbara area.
Thanks to Bent and Natalija, the AiC office now doubles as a video and audio production studio, in which we will continue to produce high quality online courses on the practice of compassion, at a standard that restores well-being, in both the giver and receiver of care.The studio is a key to making our work accessible on-demand, anywhere, anytime. It enables AiC to be an even more effective creative hub for social innovation and human flourishing.
Thanks to Bill Moulton of Navigent in the Bay Area, the new course is fully integrated and automated with e-commerce. This allows others to participate profitably by becoming an affiliate and promoting it. LeadingAge will be our first affiliate. This is a complex setup with affiliate codes and discount coupons, plus several vendors in the loop, including Paypal, Stripe, Woo-Commerce, Vimeo, Pathwright, Authorize.net, Axia Payments and Montecito Bank & Trust, all of whom must work together seamlessly. Bill also donated the CyberSecurity Staff Reference Manual he wrote, so that AiC can adhere to world-class security protocols. All revenue generated by this system will be ploughed back into the community and help our local volunteer program flourish.
I hope you will join us on this adventure. Now that we have made our program instantly and easily accessible everywhere, to take the next step—we need your help to pass the word.Here is the link to learn more about the program: https://oxygen-for-caregivers.org
If you would like to become an affiliate, or review the program, or register for it, please let Simon know by email at: Simon@AdventuresInCaring.org.