How my volunteering benefits others and my life as a caregiver

My help for schools, Parkinson's awareness, and Down syndrome is good for me

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — humorist and poet Sam Levenson, though often quoted by (and misattributed to) Audrey Hepburn, actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador

I began volunteering in my children’s classrooms when they started elementary school. From reading to kindergarteners to cleaning up after Halloween parties, I enjoyed this work immensely. I found it a fun way to spend time with my kids while also helping the school. Over time, I took on more active roles in this community, which I continued until my youngest graduated from high school two years ago.

When my husband, Arman, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s in 2009, I knew I had to do something to fight the disease. I collaborated with friends and family to create a local nonprofit organization to raise Parkinson’s funds and awareness. Contributing to the community gave me a sense of control, almost as if I were part of the team working to find a cure.

Now that my three kids are all out of the house (insert crying face emoji) and I’ve graduated from being a school volunteer, I needed to find other ways to contribute to my community and beyond. Volunteering is an excellent diversion from work, writing, and, of course, caregiving.

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How I now help, and why

I’ve been fortunate to be on the board of a small local nonprofit for many years, and I recently became its co-treasurer. I’m also a literacy tutor for people with Down syndrome. The happiness I get from tutoring my student is indescribable; the hour of my week that I spend with her brings me pure joy. My student and her wonderful mother (and caregiver) appreciate our time together for many reasons.

Although these are but small ways that I give back to my community, I feel that I’m making a significant impact on the world around me.

When Arman was diagnosed at age 38 — so early — I immediately felt different and somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. But I soon realized that many people are struggling with issues, illnesses, diagnoses, and more. Because of those needs, I make it a priority to lend a helping hand to others.

Besides being my husband’s primary caregiver, volunteering is a significant part of my life. Finding the time to do it isn’t always easy, but I do my best to work it into my schedule. If you are a caregiver or a patient with any chronic illness, taking time to help others can boost your health, attitude, and life. Volunteering can also have cognitive benefits, which is the cherry on top!

Many valuable volunteer opportunities can be accomplished from the comfort of your home. My tutoring program, for example, happens online. A quick Google search will show you the seemingly endless options. It’s never too late to start helping others and making yourself feel good at the same time.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


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