Smart Thinking: Volunteer Ingenuity
Hilary Case | Mar 28, 2014, 6 a.m.
Calvin Wang is a Bellevue resident who has volunteered with Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation program since January 2009, and he never heads out for a ride without a Sudoku book in his front pocket. Calvin loves the challenge of this 9 x 9 number puzzle, and he finds it to be a great way to pass the time as he waits for VT senior clients in doctor’s offices, dental clinics, or hospitals on the Eastside. He explains, “It teaches you how to use your thinking cap. It’s all about logic.”
Logic is one of Calvin’s greatest strengths. He worked as an engineer for many years, which helped him to develop solid problem-solving and analytical skills. He adds, “Perhaps my training as an engineer also fostered a tendency to be more observant.” These traits are essential as Calvin efficiently solves his Sudoku number puzzles, but they’ve also added a new dimension of helpfulness to his interactions with others. Calvin is evidence of the fact that a volunteer driver always provides much more than just a ride.
Once, he drove a woman who was very unsteady with her cane. He noticed that she wobbled and as she moved. Ever the problem-solver, he introduced the concept of the quad cane to her. A quad cane, he explained, is a four-footed cane that offers four points of contact with the ground instead of just one. It provides much more support and stability than traditional canes. He proposed to the client that she might benefit from such a device. Although Calvin just planted the seed that such a switch could be advantageous, he was happy to see the same frail client using a four-pronged cane during his next ride with her. She had taken his advice and reported a newfound sense of steadiness and ease as she walked.
On several other occasions, Calvin observed a problem with clients using walkers. As they attempted to go through doorways (especially those in their homes), they had to awkwardly turn their walkers sideways because they were just a tad bit too wide to fit. This made simple tasks, like getting to the bathroom, challenging. He soon discovered that the front wheels on walkers are traditionally on the apparatus’s outside poles. They can be easily removed with a push/pull button and switched to the inside poles, taking away about 1.5 inches from the total width. With this quick fix, clients are able to go in and out of doorways without any trouble. Calvin believes he has completed this outside-to-inside wheel swap on about four walkers, and each person has been very grateful for his assistance.
Calvin is humble about the impact he has had as a volunteer driver. He says, “I just do whatever I can to help out.” He is empathetic and caring as he works with older adults, yet he uses his active mind and critical eye in his volunteer work as well. Calvin enjoys working with the numbers, lines, and grids that fill the pages of his Sudoku books, but his interactions with Volunteer Transportation clients provide for a more dynamic, personable, meaningful, and memorable way to channel his well-tuned thinking cap.
The Volunteer Transportation program needs more volunteer drivers like Calvin. (No Sudoku or engineering experience required!). For more information, visit http://www.seniorservices.org/transportation, call Hilary at email@example.com, or email Hilary at (206)748-7588. You can also read program stories on our blog: www.volunteertransportation.blogspot.com. Discover why rides change lives!