Connected Through Caring project connects student volunteers to senior citizens

The project allows for students to offer support to those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Courtesy+of+Connected+Through+Caring

Courtesy of Connected Through Caring

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

While COVID-19 has kept everyone at a distance, this project has the goal of bringing people together closer than ever.

Connected Through Caring is a project created by FAU students Kassi Coviello, Isabella Seferoglou, Mark Dawod, Maya Khazem, and mentor Miriam Campo. The main mission of the project is to offer support and compassion to those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Before the start of the CTC project, Campo began to help nursing homes and assisted living facilities making cards for the 88 seniors at an assisted living facility, the Atrium at Boca Raton, she passed by on her drive home from work.

“Around that same time, the Division of Research where I work held a student competition “COVID-19 Change Challenge” as a way to keep students engaged and do something for the community. Four of the initial entries by students had the same focus of connecting with seniors in our community,” Campo explained. “These students were selected to submit a full application as a team, and I was asked to serve as their mentor. Accepting this invitation was easy. As I read each of the papers that the students submitted, I was in awe of their dedication, care, and commitment to the seniors in our community. That is how Connected Through Caring was created.”

The CTC has three main programs: Letters of Encouragement which remotely sends letters of gratitude, the Pen Pal Program which matches students and seniors through common interest, and the Video Chat Inactive which is meant to bring conversation and companionship through the pandemic.

CTC Sample Letters from Kassi Coviello

The summer project flourished despite not receiving any formal funding, due to their COVID-19 Change Challenge proposal being declined, the students felt so passionate about the project they created wanted to pursue their passion. This ambitious initiative resulted in a Go Fund Me page which solicited donations from family, friends, and colleagues.

The CTC raised $1,000 that allowed them to purchase three iPads and stands which were donated to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The technological devices aided in the Video Chat Initiative for senior citizens to connect with volunteers in the program.

“The Video Chat Initiative is a central focus of CTC. The video calls are meant to bring people together during the trying times of the pandemic. They allow for cross-generational conversations between an assisted living facility resident and an FAU volunteer to alleviate stress on seniors who are restricted from seeing their loved ones,” Khazem said.

The Video Chat Initiative allows for a scheduled 15-minute discussion between each volunteer and senior who can talk about common interests, like food, music, and sports. Seniors are even known to dive into stories about life experiences or traveling around the world.

“COVID-19 is notorious for hurting the elderly and immunocompromised populations at a greater intensity than other populations. As social distancing is encouraged, family and friends are restricted from visiting their loved ones, which can be quite stressful for some seniors,” Khazem said. “Students are able to alleviate the stress a senior is experiencing from isolation and bring a smile to their faces with one simple video call. It’s also a great way to connect the youth with seniors who love hearing from younger generations.”

The connections between the youth and seniors can grow as even volunteers outside of FAU have participated in the program since Campo purchases materials to make handmade cards for seniors from her own pocket.

“During the holidays, a 5th-grade teacher from Sunrise Park Elementary School read about our program and reach out. She asked her students to create cards, pictures, or letters for the seniors. She used this as a lesson on empathy and caring. I cannot express how touched I was to receive those and be able to deliver them to the facility. CTC has touched many lives, brought hope and smiles to those that needed it most during a very difficult time. I continue to be honored to be part of CTC and such amazing people,” Campo said.

CTC sent Valentine’s Day cards to 88 senior citizens living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Cards photo from Miriam Campo.



The CTC project allows any FAU students, faculty, and alumni to volunteer within the program. They even offer volunteer hours if any student requires them. The CTC allows everyone to volunteer within their program, especially those who feel inclined regardless if they are affiliated with FAU or not.

“The most significant aspect of this project has been being able to bring joy to the seniors residing in assisted living facilities and thank the hardworking staff at these facilities. It has been so rewarding to bring a smile to the senior’s faces through the letters and offer up our sincerest gratitude to the healthcare workers. The joy has also trickled into our wonderful volunteers as they relay to us how happy this project has made them,” Coviello said.

 

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email antoi[email protected]