ASB trip opened Nursing student Jameela Muhammed’s eyes to the human touch

muhammadJameela Muhammed finds that participating in ASB has enhanced her experience as a Nursing student.

Jameela Muhammed, a senior in Nursing, volunteered at Misericordia (Heart of Mercy) in Chicago for Alternative Spring Break 2014. This organization of the Sisters of Mercy houses 600 individuals with developmental disabilities and works to maximize their level of independence and self-determination. 

“There are no words to describe how amazing this place is,” said Muhammed. “They offer work opportunities, housing, education, and treat these individuals with dignity and respect.”

Art therapy is a big part of the program because it draws out the expression of residents who have difficulty speaking. Many of the residents have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other developmental and physical disabilities. Yet they were skilled at recreating masterpiece art and freestyle drawing. 

“At first, upon arriving, we talked to the residents with a cool voice—like a mother talks to a child. Then, we got to be more real with them: like they were one of our friends. It broadened our horizons for what we define as normal,” Muhammed said.

The 31-acre campus includes a recreational center with a swimming pool, a bakery, restaurant and recycling center. Residents have activities or jobs that they do daily. Volunteers are paired with residents and assist them.

She said the experience made her more accepting of people with disabilities and helped with her spirituality. “Communication is the full basis of nursing and medicine,” Muhammed added. “We, as nursing students and healthcare professionals, must ask ourselves, ‘How can we treat someone, yet be judgmental?’ 

“By going on this mission trip, I’ve become a stronger person. You see what you need to change and what you like about yourself. If you take away the distractions of your daily life, these trips help you get to a point of self-actualization.” 

Muhammed wants to be an advocate for the developmentally disabled. “Everyone has a voice, but sometimes these voices are smothered. People are afraid of it
(cerebral palsy and other conditions) before they
understand it. 

“Going on these trips, we think, ‘I’m going to help them’ but they help you. It’s not just the work that we did. It’s being there for them. They lose the human contact. They—the residents—want to give hugs but often people don’t want to receive them. The residents just want to be treated like human beings.”

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