A patient’s smile has been the most satisfying moment so far for Amaal Abdi Mohamud, an enthusiastic member a member of Toronto Grace Health Centre’s volunteer team.

“There is a woman on the ward where I work who is unable to talk,” says Amaal, 22, a soft-spoken native of Somalia who came to Toronto in 2002. “I was sitting beside her talking to her and she smiled at me, and I felt connected. The first time she smiled, it was special.”

Amaal is a volunteer at the Grace under the city’s Cooperative and Career Education program. It integrates academic study with practical experience and helps students make informed decisions about future careers.

Not that there is any doubt in Amaal’s mind. She has wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl. “My mother, Mulki Aden, also wanted to be a nurse but didn’t have the opportunity so I’m doing it for her as well,” Amaal says.

Four days a week she volunteers at the Grace in the Complex Continue Care program and spends one academic day at her high school, preparatory to spending four years at MacMaster University’s school of nursing.

She gets academic credits for her work at the Grace. The cooperative education program lasts four months but Amaal plans to continue her volunteer work at the health centre when she has time off from school. She finds the Grace experience both educational and enriching.

“At the end of the day, it is a blessing to know that I have helped people and made a difference to them,” she says.

As a volunteer, Amaal performs a variety of tasks during her seven-hour shift including filing, making beds, helping to feed patients and “spending time talking with them or reading to them and participating in activities in the lounge before and after lunch.” Developing a rapport with the patients, she says, adds to the enthusiasm of coming to the hospital each morning.

According to Amaal, the professional staff at Grace makes volunteers feel that they are part of a family. “Everyone helps you when you need help. The staff is so nice to the volunteers, they do many things to assist you and help you contribute.”

She says students considering a career in nursing should look to the Grace volunteer program as a means to helping them reach their goal. “There is a sense of family and community here. They care so much about their patients”.

Amaal says she wouldn’t trade her experience at the Grace for anything.

“Like the patients, the staff comes from all races, religions and backgrounds but they all have one goal: to make life better for the ones who really need it. And that’s what really makes the experience more satisfying.”

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