Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Update On My Volunteer Work

Remember my post that I made before the holidays that stressed doing volunteer work in cemeteries and that talked about my own volunteer work that I planned to get started with a friend?  Well, since it got such a great response, I thought I'd give you guys an update.

I found a friend to do my volunteer project with (Which makes it a lot more fun!).  She decided to participate with me because she needs to get some volunteer time so she can qualify for some more scholarships.  Her name is Amy, and after a lot of delays (between family obligations and the rain, there were A LOT of delays), we finally got to go out this weekend.

We arrived to the small cemetery, nestled in between two apartment buildings in the residential area of San Pedro, California at seven in the morning.  We took Amy's gigantic dog, Max, along with us for protection and company (it is not exactly the safest area of San Pedro for two young girls to be all alone in).

Amy was the designated picture-taker (She took a TON of pictures) while I was the transcriber.  After making a rough map of the cemetery, we set to work.  We noticed, however, that in front of each stone, there was an old flower.  We thought this was sweet, that someone had thought of these people even though the cemetery is long forgotten by the town.

When we were about half way through the cemetery, I noticed an old woman with a cane and a picnic-style basket come walking into the cemetery.  She seemed like she knew where she was going as she walked up to one particular stone and bowed her head for a moment.  Then, she placed a flower in front of the stone and walked back to the front of the cemetery.

I thought that she was getting ready to leave, but she instead walked to the end of the first row and began placing a flower in front of each headstone while also picking up the old flower and placing it into her basket.  She continued through every row while Amy and I were doing our work.  When our paths finally crossed, she gave us a big smile, nodded her head and continued her work.

Amy was the first who tried to talk to her, asking her often she left flowers on the stones.  It quickly became apparent that there was a language barrier, and judging by what she did say, it sounded Italian.  We continued our conversation in a charades sort of fashion, giggling at ourselves for trying to act out every sentence.

From what Amy and I were able to gather, the stone that she first left the flower on was the gravestone of her grandfather.  I think he was a fisherman or atleast had something to do with the water.  When asked how long she had been leaving flowers for the people in the cemetery, she said she had been doing it since she was a young girl (or atleast, that is what I think she said...)

So, after Amy and I were done, and the sweet old lady was done, we left.  The next step is to go through every photo, name it, match it up with the transcriptions I've done, and put it all together in a word processor.  I hope that by the time school starts, I will have the book version of this done and bound by Kinkos so that I can deliver it to some of the libraries in the area and the family history library.


S. Lincecum said...

Great work, great story, and I hope you and your friend feel great about yourselves. You should!

Terry Thornton said...

Elyse, Thanks for the report of your volunteer work. You and Amy are to be commended for the project --- and you are to be congratulated for writing such an interesting account of your encounter in the graveyard. I was struck by the images you described --- images of human beings separated by the barriers of age and of language but united by of devotion, dedication, and service. All three of you in that cemetery represent some of the best and most noble traits of human kind. Thank you.
Terry Thornton

Shane said...

The value is people volunteer for reasons that they want to meet other individuals who are in need and contribute largely to community. Some people would want to gain experience, develop skills, enhance confidence and increase the network of contacts for a future job. volunteer work

Robin said...

First, what a wonderful project you and your friend have started. As for the little old lady, this brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful and loving gesture on her part. If only the world could follower her lead.... Please keep us updated on your progress.