Michelle Leung: #RisingYouth inspiring togetherness with photos in hospital emergency area
Tell us about yourself!
I currently live in Edmonton, Alberta, and have for most of my life. Being a nursing student, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the quality of care people receive in our healthcare system.
Tell us about your #RisingYouth project.
During my medical volunteering and nursing clinical experiences, I often heard from patients themselves the anxiety they felt in healthcare facilities. This is what motivated me to create my project: The Together Project.
The Together Project was created in collaboration with Alberta Health Services with the goal of alleviating anxiety and inspiring feelings of togetherness in families who are waiting in the emergency department (ED) of the Stollery Children’s Hospital. My team of nine incredible youth volunteers and I organized photos, messages, jokes, get well wishes, and drawings onto posters, which were then put up around the Stollery ED waiting area. We hoped anxious children and families would look at these posters of other children and families supporting them, and be inspired with a sense of togetherness during their healthcare journey.
This project involved both the children and families currently in care and those in the surrounding area who have had previous experiences in the ED. I attended the Lemonade Stand day, which is a Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation public event, to take photos and collect supportive messages from children and families. The children were asked to write or draw something they thought would cheer up other children in the ED. At the end of the event, 23 families in the catchment area participated, 45 photos were taken and 126 messages were gathered. It was so amazing that #RisingYouth allowed me and my team of volunteers to realize this initiative and to work towards our goal!
What would you say is the biggest success achieved through your project?
The Together Project worked! We were able inspire a sense of togetherness in families and children who were at different points of their healthcare journey. The feedback from the families in the catchment area was extremely positive — they voiced that they appreciated such an initiative which allowed families with previous experiences with the Stollery to support other families who are currently at the Stollery. We also received positive feedback from families waiting in the emergency area — children were curious about the colorful posters, and parents approached the posters to read them, both of these reactions were exactly what we hoped to see!
Why do you think it is important for youth to be engaged in community service initiatives?
We learn to dedicate ourselves to something bigger than just the individual. For instance, you learn about what matters to a collective entity rather than just to one person, you have the privilege of hearing about different goals and aspirations, you learn different ways of doing things, you problem solve with the perspective of a collective, and you strive towards a shared goal; these are all only a few of the countless advantages one gains from engaging in such initiatives.
If youth are interested in applying for a #RisingYouth Community Service Grant but don’t know where to start, where do you suggest they find project ideas?
I suggest youth to ask themselves what really matters to them. By working on a project that reflects their passion and their desire to help the community, they can then really dedicate and apply themselves to realize a project that is genuine and impactful in the community.