Some of the Holocaust survivors served by our Holocaust Survivor Services program are identified by our staff as being especially isolated or having a particular need for volunteer support. In these cases, we match survivors with a volunteer who can provide weekly home visits and develop a friendship with the client. It’s always nice, but not required, when we can match survivors with a volunteer who speaks their first language. This kind of connection encourages bonding and relationship-building.
Volunteers who work with survivors receive an extra level of training to guide them in how to approach this population of seniors. Volunteers need to be skillful and patient listeners and feel at ease around survivors who might have emotional and/or physical difficulties or frailties. Volunteers especially need to be sensitive to the personal histories of the survivor community. Some survivors welcome the opportunity to talk about their experiences and may tell their stories to a volunteer once a relationship is built. In other cases, survivors develop lasting friendships with their volunteers without ever talking about their wartime experiences.
JFCS East Bay volunteers working with Holocaust survivors offer a range of support, including:
- Visiting a survivor in their home to provide companionship.
- Doing activities together such as playing games or cards, watching movies, or reading.
- Assisting with a house project, such as organizing family photos, doing light gardening, and helping around the house.
- Driving to JFCS East Bay events and medical appointments, either on a regular basis or as needed.
- Taking a survivor shopping or running errands.
- Accompanying a survivor to JFCS East Bay’s monthly Café Europa gathering for survivors.
- Going on walks or other light exercise.