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Senior Corps-RSVP Member providing hope to children through international and intergenerational programs

2018 June 26
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago
Once a year Senior Corps-RSVP member, Walt Riesing, travels with doctors, nurses and related medical personnel to remote and poverty-stricken areas in Haiti. There they set up relief centers to treat injuries, distribute food packs, fill prescriptions and organize games for the children.
A few months ago he used this experience as a way to connect with students in the Intergenerational Pen Pal Program of Senior Corps-RSVP of Northern Cook and Northern DuPage Counties. Participating Senior Corps-RSVP members exchange letters with students in the third to fifth grades. It’s a way for children to have another adult in their lives and an opportunity for adults to learn what children are experiencing in today’s world.
Walt, who prefers to be called Corky, corresponds with a fifth grader at Tarkington School in Wheeling, Illinois. In connection with Black History Month, Corky saw an opportunity to give the student a short history lesson in his letter. He mentioned how the Haitians centuries ago had been slaves of the French but overthrew the government and became the first nation established by slaves. To make the student aware of the poverty and living conditions in other parts of the world, Corky went on to describe how most people on that small island lack proper medical care and live in dirt-floor huts with no plumbing or electricity.

Senior Corps-RSVP member Walt Riesing (left) with Haitian team

Corky is also a tutor with Lunch Buddies, a tutoring program of HandsOn Suburban Chicago and Senior Corps-RSVP. Corky works with students at two other elementary schools during their lunch hour. He helps them with their studies but more often serves as a mentor, listening to what is happening in their lives and sometimes providing guidance. “Boys need a male in their lives,” he said, “so it may involve nothing more than talking, playing games or going outside and playing soccer.”

Corky doesn’t stop there. He finds great joy in all his volunteer efforts, but one of his favorites is working with Rainbow Hospice engaging in comfort care-offering solace to a dying patient-or respite care-giving relief to 24-hour caregivers.
In all these areas-aiding the disaster victims in Haiti, establishing mentoring relationships with students who need guidance and comforting hospice clients and their families-he finds that the “more time you spend with all these people, the more hope you have. What I do is no big deal. I’ve been truly blessed in my life.”
Written by Janet Souter, Senior Corps-RSVP Member
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