“As a houseparent, I was constantly impressed with Houda’s ability to bring the girls together and teach them how to just enjoy life and have fun! Thanks to Houda, the girls at Meadows have been able to explore new interests, learn new hobbies and skills and just generally feel more cared for and special! We love having Houda volunteer with us!” -Amy East, Meadows Group Home houseparent
In September, we are featuring Meadows Group Home (Meadows GH) volunteer, Houda Abdalla, who has been volunteering at The Settlement Home since the beginning of the year. We asked Houda, Meadows staff and the Meadows residents about the time they’ve spent together.
SH: What has surprised you most about volunteering with The Settlement Home?
HA: I was surprised at the immediate connection I made with the girls. Some girls took to me right away, they were very open with me, and showed appreciation, respect, and were eager to participate in activities. Others took a little longer but that’s to be expected with what they’ve gone through in their lives. I didn’t think spending time with the girls would affect me so emotionally. I think about them and worry about them on a daily basis. I was surprised at the emotional attachment that I have experienced.
“She asks us what we like to do, brings all the materials, teaches us how to do the activity and then will leave us the leftovers so we can make it all again.” -Meadows Group Home resident
SH: When you last volunteered with your cottage how did you feel about the experience?
HA: During my last visit, we worked on a scrapbooking project. It was fun to see the girls get creative. It was so fulfilling to see them enjoy an activity. I usually pick a “helper of the day” who helps me with set up and clean up. The helper gets a small reward. Some of the girls help clean up even when it’s not their turn. They do it out of appreciation and I think that’s so kind. Seeing them happy and eager to participate is amazing to witness.
“Houda is passionate, kind, and has a great sense of humor, which goes so far when working with our kids! From making your own tea blends to storytelling activities around a s’mores station to creating paint-your-own fairy gardens, Houda never stops coming up with the most creative, fun, and engaging activities!” -Amy East, Meadows Group Home houseparent
SH: What makes this volunteer position a meaningful use of your time?
HA: All of the interactions I’ve had with the girls have been memorable, especially when I get to spend one-on-one time with them and bond further. I can see that I’m making a small difference in their lives and that is so meaningful to me. I told the girls that I would be out of town for Labor Day weekend and would not be able to visit. One of them said, “noooo.” It was really sweet and warmed my heart that she would miss me as much as I would miss her.
“Houda is amazingly organized. She provides us with a schedule of when we can expect her to come as well as information regarding each visit’s activity well in advance. She really gets to know our kiddos and what activities will be the most appealing to them. She recently planned an activity and bought supplies to help improve our porch and garden space. The garden has been a labor of love for a lot of our residents so adding more to it was perfect for our kiddos. She helped them make and decorate bird feeders for the yard, which the kids continue to make sure are full of food for the outdoor critters.” –Emily Korman, Meadows Group Home Therapist/Supervisor
SH: Do you have a particular memory or experience that has stuck with your from your time volunteering at The Settlement Home?
HA: During a visit, one of the girls wanted to play the violin for me. She played a beautiful song that she had been practicing. When she finished, I said, “Let me see your violin.” I started playing and her eyes got big and she said, “What? Since when do you play the violin?” We laughed about it and our bond grew. I hadn’t picked up a violin in 10 years but knowing the connection it would make with her, I had to try.
“She’s really creative. She’s done necklace making, scrapbooking, helped us make picture frames, made bird houses with us, and she even did a s’mores and storytelling activity.” -Meadows Group Home resident
SH: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering? What are your interests/hobbies?
HA: I have a full-time job as an Instructional Designer. I also enjoy working out three times a week. I recently started guitar lessons. I have an adorable 3 pound Yorkie who takes up a lot of my time and affection. My husband and I enjoy traveling when we can; we’ve been to every continent except for Antarctica, that’s next on the list…well, his list, at least. I try to keep busy.
Thank you for all you do for our Meadows Group Home residents, Houda!