Caring for Kids

Bringing Smiles to Kids

A smile a day keeps the heartache away. That’s what Andrea Christian’s mom taught her and that’s the philosophy she brings to her volunteer work at Cincinnati Children’s College Hill Campus, a residential treatment program for children with mental health issues.

Andrea first came to the medical center on the recommendation of her psychology professor at the University of Cincinnati, where she is majoring in biopsychology. “He told the whole class that we should volunteer here, if we could, because the experience would be so valuable,” she says.

Andrea works with children ages 7 to 14. Sometimes they play games, but often just talk. “The younger teenage girls especially seem to like that,” she says. “I’ll ask them a simple question, like what’s your favorite color or song, and it’s amazing how they just open up. They tell me about their family, their home lives, the situation that brought them to College Hill. It’s a break from their routine. There’s no pressure.”

Through it all, Andrea keeps a smile on her face, and she loves it when she gets a smile in return. “Every time I see a child smile, I know that a bit of sunshine just came into their day,” she explains. “When I see them smile, I feel like they get a step closer to their goals.”

Andrea will graduate from UC in June. Then she’ll be off to graduate school in the fall. Because of her volunteer work at College Hill, she hopes to become a social worker. “I see the way they work with the children,” she says. “They are usually the ones who coordinate the kids’ admission, and what happens to them after they leave. Social workers can have a huge impact in getting a child the help that he or she needs.”

Meanwhile, Andrea highly recommends volunteering at the medical center. “Everyone is so nice and friendly, and the atmosphere is full of excitement and joy,” she says. “I truly believe that is why Cincinnati Children’s is so successful.”

And a friendly smile from a caring volunteer doesn’t hurt either.

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