Health care in Minahil Fatima’s home country, Pakistan, is similar to what she’s found in the United States, with one exception: volunteers.
“At home, we don’t have hospital volunteers to greet people, visit with patients, and so on,” the teenager says. “That kind of work is done by nurses, in addition to all of their other responsibilities.”
For Minahil, a high-achieving cultural exchange student attending Tartan High School on a one-year academic scholarship, being able to volunteer at a hospital was something she’d wanted to do for a long time.
That’s because she has her sights set on becoming a doctor. Medicine runs in her family. Several relatives are physicians. Her father is a radiologist; she wants to become a neurologist. Her goal is to learn as much as she can about health care, do well in college, and attend the best medical school in Pakistan.
“Everything really fell into place when I came to live with my American host family,” Minahil says. “My scholarship program included a local volunteering commitment, and St. John’s Hospital was accepting applications. I have a passion for helping people, so I was very fortunate and very happy to get this opportunity.”
Minahil typically is scheduled to assist in the surgery waiting area and the main floor Welcome Center of the hospital in Maplewood. She enjoys both sets of duties for different reasons.
“At the Welcome Center, it’s fun to be part of a team that does things like escort people to their destinations and deliver flowers,” Minahil says. “However, in surgery waiting, I am solely responsible for answering phones, giving patient updates to families, and other duties. I like being able to handle all these responsibilities on my own. I used to be a bit shy, and this experience has increased my confidence.”
When school is in session, Minahil volunteers approximately four hours each week. But when there’s holiday or vacation time, she works as many hours as she can. “I’ll come in every day or on weekends, if I am needed. Right now, I have reached my 100-hour commitment for my scholarship program. However, I will keep working until I return home in early June.”
Minahil takes her volunteer commitment seriously: In the middle of this winter’s storms and polar vortex and the unexpected April snow, her host family made sure she got a ride to cover her shifts. In March, during the more temperate weather, she rode the bus to Maplewood Mall, then walked the rest of the way (1.4 miles) to St. John’s.
Minahil has been overwhelmed by the kindness, support, respect, and generosity of spirit that co-workers and visitors have shown her.
“Everyone is so nice. People always say, ‘Thank you for what you do,’ and they listen to me – a 16-year-old volunteer – when I speak! I feel like I have created a strong bond with the people I’ve met, and it has inspired me to do something special when I leave.”
That “something special” is to unite with her best friends to create volunteer programs that serve her community the way St. John’s volunteers serve their community. “My two older brothers have set a good example for volunteering,” Minahil says. “They deliver food to those in need. I want to make a difference like that in health care.”
Minahil says that volunteering at St. John’s has been life-changing. “I am filled with gratitude for everything I learned and was able to give back. I can’t wait to return someday and let people know how I am moving forward, using everything they taught me.”
To learn about Fairview volunteer opportunities, please visit https://www.fairview.org/volunteering.