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We are showing gratitude for our amazing Buddy Volunteers who help us run Kate’s Club programs and show our members that they are not alone in their grief. Here is a short interview with our Kate’s Club Buddy Obi!
How long have you been volunteering at Kate’s Club?
Since October 2021.
Why do you volunteer at Kate’s Club?
The simplest reason is because my father died in August of 2020, a few months into the pandemic and a year into my time in medical school. This, understandably, destabilized me a bit, and it intensified my lifelong search for the purpose of human existence, which ultimately led me to Kate’s Club. Light stuff, I know.
There was a delay between his death and my involvement with Kate’s Club largely because my sister got involved with the organization first, and I wanted to let her have her thing. When she left to return to her own medical studies, I decided to join up. The timing fell to the fall of 2021 because I was in the throes of the 3rd year of medical school and, having recently read Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, wanted to try out his idea of living for others as a way to construct meaning. It’s helped.
Life is still up-and-down, though, and while it doesn’t seem that there’ll ever be an end to my personal search for meaning, Kate’s Club has certainly pushed me closer to finding it – or, shoot, just building the dang thing myself, like Frankl suggested. Who am I to argue with such a smart guy?
Kate’s Club has thus come to be a very, very important pillar of my life, and I know that the lessons it’s taught me and experiences it’s given me will make me a better physician, poet, scientist, brother, and son.
Do you remember how it felt when you first started volunteering at Kate’s Club? How was it?
I’ve worked with kids a lot through my life and find it easy to get along with everyone, so it wasn’t hard at all. It’s certainly gotten even easier as I’ve come to know more of the kids and other volunteers. I do try to preserve some of the “beginner’s mind”, though, so I continue to bring a feeling of freshness to keep the kiddos engaged.
What do you like about volunteering at Kate’s Club?
Many things. I enjoy meeting new people and I enjoy the energy of the kiddos, so it helps me maintain connections to those things. As I alluded to before, I view the set of things that Kate’s Club stands for – compassion, empathy, an appreciation of life’s ups and downs – as one of the load-bearing “pillars” of my life.
Specifically, I think Kate’s Club’s emphasis on bringing death out of the shadows and into the light is unspeakably important. There’s a lot of denial of death in American culture, and it hurts people psychologically, socially, financially, etc. I could speak about that for a long time, but don’t want to bore anyone.
Suffice to say, it’s a rewarding and therapeutic experience, and the kids and activities are fun, so it’s not all “doom and gloom”, but even when it gets doomy and gloomy, you learn to sit with it, and that’s hugely valuable.
If you had to explain Kate’s Club to someone who’s never heard of us, what would you say?
My elevator speech generally goes like this: “It’s an organization in Atlanta, GA that helps kids between 5-18 – who have had a loved one and/or caretaker die – manage and deal with their journeys through grief in the setting of: in-house events, local trips, and twice-yearly weekend camps. It’s a great blend of fun, therapy, learning, and more – for the kids and for yourself. You’re definitely going to learn and grow, which is why even those without a personal experience of loss should join up, because the ‘playing field’ is truly level. Everyone is a beginner, and everyone has room to grow.”
If you could describe Kate’s Club in one word, what would it be?
From Merriam-Webster: “compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
They continue, in a further disambiguation from the commonly conflated concept of empathy: “What is the difference between empathy and compassion?
Compassion and empathy both refer to a caring response to someone else’s distress. While empathy refers to an active sharing in the emotional experience of the other person, compassion adds to that emotional experience a desire to alleviate the person’s distress.”
What are you looking forward to in the future of Kate’s Club?
Involving more kids/volunteers, and getting more folks informed about the ubiquity of grief.
Kate's Club accepts U.S. Surgeon General's highest civilian honor for mental health work