Teenager spends summer volunteering at Southampton Memorial’s East Pavilion

Published 11:23 am Saturday, August 31, 2013


Esther Eom -- SUBMITTED

Esther Eom — SUBMITTED

FRANKLIN—Esther Eom spent her summer in a different way than the average college sophomore might.

Instead of lying out by the pool or on the beach, the 19-year-old volunteered her time at Southampton Memorial Hospital’s East Pavilion.

The East Pavilion is a long-term residential care facility affiliated with Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin.

As a volunteer, she spent time with the East Pavilion residents, and made sure they were able to attend activities provided by the staff.

According to Esther Francis, administrator at East Pavilion, Eom led activities such as Bingo, accompanied the residents on bus trips and did one-on-one activities with them.

“We were fortunate to have Esther spend her summer with the residents,” Francis said.

Residents and professionals alike at East Pavilion benefitted from Eom’s work at the long-term care facility.

“She was friendly,” said Jim Browder, East Pavilion’s director of Social Services. “She took an interest in the people.”

At first, Eom said she wasn’t sure about what she had gotten herself into.

“At first, I was extremely nervous,” she said. “I was overwhelmed by the numerous amount of names listed on the residents sheet I had to memorize. I wondered if the residents would like me and the way I did things.”

Eom said that with the help of the friendly staff and residents at the East Pavilion, she started feeling better and knew she had made the right choice on how to spend her summer.

“After the first week, I was comfortable walking in to the facility, as I was greeted by smiling faces and friendly hellos,” Eom said. “After the second week, I could identify residents’ names with their faces. And after the third week, I fell in love with my relationship with each of the residents.”

She started taking her work home after a few weeks in.

“I went home each day reflecting on what I did that particular day,” Eom said. “I wrote birthday cards for residents and stuck them to goodie-bags. I told my friends and family about each resident.

“I practiced a piece on the piano to play for the residents. And I tried my best to greet each day at East Pavilion with love and generosity in my heart.”

On her last day, she went room to room to say good-bye.

“Some residents cried, some smiled and laughed, and some looked at me in the same way they did on my first day there,” Eom said. “Many wished me good luck with school and urged me to visit whenever I had the chance. My heart was extremely touched.”

She really enjoyed her time at East Pavilion.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Eom said.

A sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, she is a psychology major with a pre-med track.

In high school, Eom became interested in psychology after spending her summer as a lifeguard for the Franklin YMCA and the Cypress Cove Country Club, and she knew she wanted to have a background in medicine when her brother was diagnosed with appendicitis.

After college, Eom wants to go to medical school. Though still unsure what field she wants to pursue, she would like to work with children.

Eom encourages others to volunteer their time as well, whether it is at Southampton Memorial Hospital or elsewhere. Though of course, she does recommend the East Pavilion.

“It’ll change your life like it changed mine,” Eom said. “When the residents told me they appreciated the younger group of people so greatly, I could not help but to think and agree. I placed myself in their shoes and thought to myself, ‘how refreshing it would be to engage with the younger generation.’

“One resident even told me that ‘young people made him feel young,’” she said, adding there are no volunteers or workers in her age group.

“The facility needs lots of optimistic, enthusiastic and friendly people around my age group to devote their time in getting to know the facility,” Eom said. “If I felt that I left a mark on the residents’ hearts, how great would it be if there were many more?”