(07/22/20) NEW ORLEANS — Winning any award is big news. But winning an award for “doing good” is considered one of the ultimate forms of development.
Checking on seniors who are stuck in place due to the pandemic was just the ticket to win the One in a Million award by Orleans Parish 4-H’ers.
Known for the prestigious Jefferson Award, Multiplying Good recently launched the One in a Million campaign to recognize acts of service big and small during these unprecedented times.
LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Orleans Parish Alisha Okoro found out about the award and decided to nominate the club.
“Our junior leaders have been making weekly phone calls to elderly residents in Orleans Parish during the pandemic as part of a 4-H program called CARES Project — Children Acting Responsibly to Engage Seniors,” she said.
“This is a new program within Missouri, Virgin Islands, Jefferson and Orleans parishes 4-H that connects youth with local seniors,” she added. “Since we’re having to social distance, many of our seniors can no longer receive visits from family and friends.”
Okoro and fellow 4-H agent Derek Landrum realized the separation can be a source of extreme loneliness and depression. They saw an opportunity to help the elderly and help their students learn about the past.
Once the junior leaders make the initial call to introduce themselves, subsequent calls are scripted to engage the seniors about several topics from eating a balanced diet to physical activity.
One of the seniors has provided an education away from school for the 4-H’er who has been assigned to her.
Mary Johnson, one of the seniors participating in the CARES Project, was born in Mississippi and moved to New Orleans as a teen. Johnson likes to talk to the 4-H’er about her more than 20 years of experience as a nurse.
The topic she discussed with one of the junior leaders — eating a balanced diet — has made her more conscious of eating healthier and making better food choices.
“The junior leader, Maya, also enjoys talking to the senior each week,” Okoro said. “She has learned a lot from the senior and looks forward to the little piece of advice she receives each week, such as wearing a mask as recommended, drinking enough water and always doing her best in school.”
Through the CARES Project, 4-H junior leaders have directly affected the lives of seniors, along with increasing their communication and leadership skills by promoting community resilience.
The junior leaders have also made masks for healthcare workers in New Orleans as one of their community service projects.
“We are always looking for new projects to keep our students connected and involved,” Okoro said.
Orleans Parish 4-H member Shelbi Varnado uses her head, heart and hands to discuss health and the importance of physical activity with one of the seniors she calls to check on every week. Shelbi and her club members recently won a One in a Million award as part of the CARES Project of the LSU AgCenter 4-H youth development program. Photo by Alisha Okoro/LSU AgCenter