Hope for the Next Generation: The Foster Grandparents Story

By Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor

In the quiet corners of our lives, where health concerns had stolen the rhythm of work and left behind an echoing void, my wife and I found solace in an unexpected place: with the laughter of children. Unable to pursue even part-time work due to health constraints, we discovered a profound joy in the company of kids. Together since 1976, we weathered life’s storms side by side, and when my wife stumbled upon a flyer about becoming Foster Grandparents, it felt like a calling.

The year was 1965 when Foster Grandparent volunteers began making a difference in classrooms nationwide, acting as tutors, mentors, and friends. This program, designed for individuals aged 55 and over, offered not only a chance to assist children but also an opportunity to remain active and engaged within our communities.

Enlisting in the program, I found myself in schools, aiding teachers in the noble task of imparting knowledge to eager young minds. Most of these children lacked grandparents of their own, making our presence all the more meaningful. The children, as well as us in our foster grandparent rolls, were filled with not only joy but also a purpose found amid the letters of the alphabet and coloring pages of the classroom.

“Every day, when we are standing outside the classroom, the students, even the ones we are not working with, come to give us hugs and say hello,” Mario stated.

The realization that worrying less about ourselves and extending love to the children was the key to happiness became evident. In the laughter and hugs of these little ones, we found a purpose that transcended our health challenges, and in giving them love, we are helping shape a brighter future.

One day, I was assigned to work with a little boy struggling with a language he couldn’t speak. He didn’t seem able to grasp the concept of a pencil, let alone the letter A. I found myself inspired to help him, to understand him. I showed him how to hold the pencil in his right hand, and we got to work. Then, in a beautiful moment, I observed him switch the pencil from his left hand to his right. Communicating with him in Spanish, I realized he was left-handed. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched his previous struggle melt away, his letters coming out flawlessly when he used his correct hand. At that moment, a connection that transcended language barriers was formed.

As a Foster Grandparent, each day is an opportunity to assist teachers, provide extra attention to children in need, and offer words of encouragement. The students, even those I didn’t directly work with, showered us with hugs every day. Their warmth eclipsed my health concerns, and in their embrace, I discovered a rejuvenating source of happiness.

“The children taught me to forget about myself and focus on the love we could give them. With unwavering love, we could impact younger generations positively.” Mario said.

The realization that worrying less about ourselves and extending love to the children was the key to happiness became evident. In the laughter and hugs of these little ones, we found a purpose that transcended our health challenges, and in giving them love, we are helping shape a brighter future.

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