As rotarians, we do community service projects to impact the community, not because we want something in return. But, once in a while, a service project has the ability to change you as much as it changes the community.
On Rotary Gives Thanks Day, the Rotary Club of East Honolulu visited the Hale Ho Aloha Nursing Home. This project was chaired by Jamie Apuna. We visited, passed out holiday necklaces, hot cocoa and cookies, painted with them, and mostly talked story with. Resident charmer Jerry even serenaded us with a few songs. Actually, we could not take the mike away from him.
This nursing home serves residents with pretty severe dementia. As you can probably imagine, this was an amazing project. It had a profound impact on me and I believe on every volunteer there. I wanted to share some of the things that I learned. 
When volunteering for a community in need, you come to realize that every person has a story - a story of who they are and how they came to be where they are. Not only is it interesting, but it teaches you about humanity, it exposes you to different perspectives, and it inspires you to be or do better.  I asked one of the residents if she wanted to paint and she said very slowly and with difficulty that she used to paint, but she can no longer. I went to get her a paper and some paints. I picked up her hand and put the paintbrush into the paints and put it onto the paper, and she began to “paint”. She only painted in this one area, even when I moved the paper around, she still painted in that one area. But, when I asked if she was done and tried to take away the paintbrush, she didn’t want to stop. Until I brought her a cookie and hot cocoa and she quickly put the paintbrush down. It was fascinating to me to see that art probably brought her joy when she was younger, and it was providing her some type of peace now as well. 
Mother Theresa says “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” As a volunteer, you come to the understanding that simple actions can have a big impact. Sure we may have been just working with 20 residents, but every time you make a difference in someone’s life, you create positive ripples into this world. You’re not only impacting their life, but the lives of everyone they touch. Remember even the smallest drop of water effects the entire pond. One small act of kindness can make a world of difference. 
Communication was very difficult with the residents as most didn’t communicate at all or well. But, a simple smile can permeate language, cultural, economic, or other barriers and can relay the message that you care. There were a lot of genuine smiles all around on this day, from the residents, from the family members, from the staff, and from our volunteers.
Volunteering brings with it a deep appreciation of all that you have in life and helping those in need is a firm reminder of what really matters. In a world of divisiveness and negativity, volunteering on this day reminded me that there is good in this world. Seeing rotarians so giving of their time and hearts reminds me that there is still kindness and love, it makes me grateful to be a rotarian and it inspires me to do more. 
As a volunteer, you never stop learning. Developing new skills, discovering new passions, gaining new insights about yourself and the world around you. I believe this to be true for myself, but it has always been important to me to instill this in the next generation and having our Rotaract Club from Chaminade there on this day to me was perfect. 
Although I focused on all the things that I got out of this project, I truly do believe that we were able to bring some love, smiles, singing, and laughter to the residents and staff at the Hale Ho Aloha Nursing home.