30 August 2011

Joy is Born of Ordinary Moments - - - The Care Communities

Mamma Jamma Beneficiary #4
"A Burden, when shared, is cut in half. A Joy that is shared ... is doubled." 
                                                               --- a Care Partner

It is a very basic principle: No one should have to face a serious illness alone, and no one should have to die alone. It is the vision of The Care Communities
to make this a reality. Volunteers go through a short training session and learn the importance of unconditional care. A personal community is then formed when 3 to 6 of these volunteers, the Care Team, are paired up with the person who is ill, the Care Partner. This video highlights 3 such caring communities:

Haley is a 34 year old single mother with a 12 year old son, struggling just to get by. In 2010, she lost her job and a month later was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her treatment began, not only did she lose her hair but radiation caused an infection in her teeth. She cannot get dental care because her emergency Medicaid does not pay for it. Two months ago, Haley found out her cancer medication caused her heart to go into congestive failure. Her treatment was put on hold and she was told to limit her activities to keep her heart rate down. Doctors told her after a month of being on new heart medication her heart would heal, but it has not. She still needs 6 more months of her cancer medication, but the heart issue prevents this. 

Fortunately, Haley has had a Care Team from The Care Communities. They help keep her house clean, ensure there are clean clothes, do grocery
shopping when she is too tired, run errands and help maintain her yard. The team also plans to clean out her garage and help with a garage sale. These are ordinary things, but the Care Team is the lifeline that keeps things as normal as possible for her and her son. Haley is a mentally strong woman who is fighting to keep herself healthy and provide for her family. Knowing she has help allows her to spend her energy recovering. Who knows where she would be today if she did not have a Care Team?

Generally, each Care Team volunteer commits to 4 hours a month. They offer non-medical assistance such as:
  • Light Housekeeping
  • Shopping
  • Meal Preparation
  • Supportive Child Services
  • Yard Work
  • Transportation
  • Pet Care
A first time volunteer might expect a somber situation, but soon find themselves laughing and having a good time. They become part of their Care Partner's life at a deep level and find it a privilege to walk with them on their illness journey. These volunteers find joy, a journey of joy, daily amidst ordinary moments. As Care Partner Dory so eloquently states, "I can LIVE the rest of my life, not DIE the rest of my life".

You might think it is unusual for anyone to need a Care Team. Unfortunately this is not the case. "Do People Write You Off?" - was the title of a post in a cancer forum I frequented during my treatment. Reading the replies, I was stunned to see this was more common than I expected. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, "Terminally ill cancer patients have a higher-than-average divorce rate, and it's almost always the husband leaving his sick wife." It is one thing to learn you have cancer, it is even worse to face this disease alone.

The Care Communities celebrated their 20th anniversary of unconditional care in 2011. They started informally, within the faith community in 1991, to provide compassionate, end-of-life support to AIDS patients in Austin. This was a time when many were shunned by their families and had no one to care for them. In 1997, encouraged by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, they expanded their services to the cancer community. They now provide Care Team Services, free of charge, to over 120 Care Partners each year with a waiting list for 30 more. If you live in Austin, please consider volunteering your time to this very worthy organization. For volunteer opportunities, contact Roger Temme at roger@thecarecommunities.org.

"Every human being has a great, yet often unknown gift: to care, to be compassionate, to become present to the other, to listen, to hear and receive-- If that gift would be set free and made available -- Miracles could take place"  - Henri Nouwen

The Care Communities is just one of the
10 Beneficiaries of the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride
THIS, is why I ride

You can support my fundraising efforts here


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