Audrey Hand: Building Relationships 3,000 Miles Away

During my interview as a prospective Lasallian Volunteer, I was asked how comfortable I would be living away from home. No problem, I thought. I have lived thousands of miles away from home and even in a different country. Staying connected to my friends and family would be easy peasy no matter where I was assigned. Little did I know that I would end up right back where I started, in my childhood bedroom. Staying connected with family has never been easier, sometimes—particularly after being assigned a long list of chores—too easy.

Like many today, I now work from home. Although I have the additional challenge of working for an organization three thousand miles away in a whole other time zone. After a brief stint in the Bronx, I came back to San Francisco to work remotely. I was disappointed to leave New York, and I mourned the experiences I missed both because of my early departure and because of COVID. I am sure anyone who reads this can empathize with the disappointment of this year, but I am fortunate and thankful that opportunities are the only things I have lost. That being said, I also was able to experience a lot in New York despite the limitations! I went on many walks in Central Park, I went apple picking, fellow Lasallian Volunteers “helped” me practice my driving skills (it was mostly them yelling while I went 10 mph in an empty parking lot), and we had so many movie nights.

While working from home was certainly not how I envisioned my time as a Lasallian Volunteer, it has led me to feel great empathy toward students learning remotely. It is not easy to spend hours on end looking at a computer screen and it is so, so easy to become distracted. Being cooped up all day can also make you stir crazy. Considering the hours I spend working, sleeping and relaxing, I easily spend 18 hours a day in my bedroom. For children, I imagine not being able to go outside to be an even greater challenge. That is why I am so grateful to work for Fordham Bedford Community Services. As youth education coordinator, one of my duties is to help conduct the afterschool program. For three hours a day we have tutors virtually available for local primary school students to log on and receive homework help. In addition to tutoring, the afterschool program also offers social opportunities to the children, something particularly beneficial to students who study from home. During the afterschool program, kids can see their classmates and study together even if they don’t physically go to class together.

Working from home has not been all doom and gloom! Since being home, I have never once gotten out of my pajamas until 11 in the morning (the exact time I have to show up on camera), my commute time is the 10 seconds it takes for me to open or close my computer, and, due to the time difference, my workday ends at 3:00 p.m. Although I’m clear across the country, I am far from isolated from the people with whom I work. I am on Zoom with them Monday through Thursday. Every day I check in with students to ask about their day and school, I speak to my coworkers about their lives, and I help coordinate daily virtual meetings. So, while I am not going to Broadway shows or seeing the Statue of Liberty, I am still able to learn so much and connect with new people. I am very grateful for my supervisor, Roxanna Chowdhry-Velasquez, and Lasallian Volunteers for offering all the support and guidance I need.

Audrey Hand is a first-year LV serving at Fordham Bedford Community Services. She is a 2020 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California with a degree in history and a graduate of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.

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