WellLife Network is... Samantha
By: Deborah Cruz
At ten in the morning the Station Road parking lot had been transformed to a Hawaiian destination, with palm trees and a snowcone tiki bar. Most of the individuals were seated patiently waiting for the burgers to hit the grills, while others had already began dancing and vibing to the music. The entire event had been put together by few people Syndey, Jennifer, and Samantha, Program Coordinator of DD Services.
As a Program Coordinator, Samantha, works 1-on-1 with WellLife’s individuals to make every activity they do therapeutic. “I work with all individuals, for example, if an individual is non-verbal, I will them to engage in a conversation,” said Samantha, “I try to put a therapeutic experience to everything they do.”
Samantha, who graduated from St. Joseph’s University, said she wanted to work at WellLife after she volunteered. “When I was in school, I learned about disabilities and mental health it really encouraged me to take this route,” she said, “I volunteered here during COVID-19, I led many activities through ZOOM.” During the lockdown, many of the physical activities and resources meant help those at WellLife were transferred over to online services. Only recently has there been more in-person events and physical activities.
The Rego Park native mentioned that challenges that come with the work, “being a new person coming in, the individuals are not used to me, so they are not as open with me as opposed to a staff member who has been here a long time.” She stated that some individuals need to be engaged before they speak to her, which could be difficult at times. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of them and they’re slowly opening up to me.”
While Samantha works 1-on-1 with the individuals, she also works in group settings and is heavily involved in planning events for her sites. Recently, she helped come up with the “Luau End of Summer Bash” an event that became a big hit among the individuals. The purpose of the events is to get the individuals out of their day-to-day schedule, it drives them to practice their motor and cognitive skills while interacting with others in a more social setting. “With these activities the individuals find a common ground. We want them to receive the social interaction that they may not get when they leave the program,” Samantha explained.
One important aspect of recreation is community engagement and for Samantha it is a priority, “a few weeks ago, WellLife had their Victory Games and then their international day, those were two really big events, I’m glad we are bringing the community back together” Samantha said, “we focus a lot on the individuals, but it’s important we don’t forget the community aspect of it.”