Central Valley volunteer helps families through education

In honor of volunteer appreciation week, we are highlighting one of our Community Educators based out of the Central Valley. Debbie Singh has been volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association® for a little more than a year. She shares her experience as a volunteer and why donating time to the Alzheimer’s Association is so important.

Debbie Singh, Alzheimer's Association volunteer
Debbie Singh

Becoming a volunteer
Debbie Singh volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association in the Central Valley. While she hasn’t had a family member affected by Alzheimer’s or another dementia, Debbie owns Visiting Angels Fresno, an in-home care services company for older adults.

Through her work, she has seen first-hand the impact of dementia and how it affects both the people living with the disease and their families. “I’ve seen the decline and I’ve seen families struggling with it,” said Debbie. “If I can help people navigate [the disease] better, then that’s what I want to do.”

Because of Debbie’s line of work, it was only a matter of time before she learned about the Alzheimer’s Association. When the Association put out a call asking for volunteers, Debbie, who has been volunteering for various organizations since the age of 14, thought it would be a great way to continue to help family members.

Community Educator
Debbie is now one of Fresno’s Community Educators, volunteer speakers who help expand the reach of Alzheimer’s Association programs. Community Educators deliver programs on topics related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, using prepared materials.

“One of the things I do with my families, [from her work], is help them figure out how to navigate dementia,” said Debbie. “Being a Community Educator resonated with me, and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

What to expect
Training

  • The Association gives you all of the materials you need to be able to give a presentation
  • There are multiple presentations you can choose to give, and you can learn more than one
  • It only takes a few hours to learn each presentation
  • There is someone to contact if you have questions
  • The staff are supportive of their volunteers

Presenting

  • The prestation is not a script; once learned, parts of it can be modified to be more conversational
  • Prior to your first presentation, there is a practice presentation that will be done in front of a staff member who will provide constructive feedback
  • When doing a live presentation, there is a staff member on the call who can support you
  • You can sign up for as many or as few presentations as you have time to give
  • As of the publishing of this blog, all presentations are presented virtually. Because of this, audience members can be from anywhere in Northern California or Northern Nevada

For new volunteers, Debbie encourages them to reach out to their volunteer contact. “You should feel comfortable with the materials you’re going to present,” said Debbie. “Any jitters or nerves that someone may have, are resolved by knowing the materials and utilizing the support that the Association has.”

Debbie and her coworkers at the Fresno-Madera Walk to End Alzheimer's
Visiting Angels at the Fresno-Madera Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Making a difference
Debbie’s favorite part of being a Community Educator is when she knows she has made a difference. “When someone walks away saying ‘I’m going to try that,’ it’s one of the most rewarding things,” said Debbie. “It wasn’t something redundant or information they already had.

“I do this because I enjoy it. I feel good hoping that by the end someone took away something that will be able to help them.”

Because Debbie works full time, she also appreciates that she can sign up for presentations on her own schedule. Typically, Debbie gives one or two presentations a month.

“They know that many volunteers are working and are fitting this in because they want to,” said Debbie. “You look to see what [the Association] needs this month, and people volunteer to take those spots.

“Sometimes [the Association] reaches out to me directly to see if I could speak at a specific event. You do the presentations when you’re able, it’s not like they burden someone with a whole bunch.”

Helping families
Debbie encourages people to consider volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association because of the good it does for people living with the disease and their family members. “When we’re ill with many other diseases we go home and manage the illness ourselves,” said Debbie.

“When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s they will need people around them, their care team, their family and their friends to help them. They won’t be able to manage it by themselves.

“This disease is one where family members know they’re going to watch their family member fade and they can’t stop it. To be part of something that is going to make life better for the families is so important and it’s what we as people are supposed to do for each other.

“Everyone that I’ve encountered at the Alzheimer’s Association has this compassion for doing what they do, for helping families navigate the disease. Their mission is in line with anyone who wants to make a difference and help people through this. For someone considering being a volunteer for this organization, it gives you the opportunity to pay it forward.”

Find out more about volunteer opportunities at the Alzheimer’s Association by visiting alz.org/norcal/volunteer.

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