Creating a lasting memory of a family’s loved one gives volunteer her own joy and purpose.
Paradigm Health volunteer Aneesha Anand is a junior in college but she’s already putting in motion the educational foundation to become a doctor. Caring for people is a calling for her and through her volunteer efforts she has found that providing joy through her artistic talents is a way to “care” for people, too.
“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was in middle school,” shares Anand. “My grandmother died from a combination of breast cancer and interstitial lung disease when I was young. I was shocked at her passing because she kept all her symptoms hidden from me to protect me, so I didn’t really know she was that sick. She didn’t go through formal hospice treatment in the traditional sense, but instead my grandfather and other family in India cared for her at her home. After her passing, I really wanted to understand her medical conditions and do more for others with terminal illness.
When the pandemic hit, many of Anand’s extracurriculars had been shut down, so she began searching for volunteer opportunities to engage virtually and make a difference for others. She found Paradigm Health’s volunteer opportunities online and began by applying for an opportunity to make cards for Paradigm’s hospice patients to give them something to look forward to.
“When I applied, I showed Rockea, the Paradigm Health volunteer coordinator, some of my artwork, including some drawings I had done for Riley Children’s Hospital,” says Anand. “I suggested the idea of making portraits for patients, because I thought families might enjoy a drawing of their loved one that captured their spirit and personality as a tribute to their memory. It takes me about four to five hours to do a portrait, which seems long, but for me, it is an enjoyable and peaceful experience — almost meditative in a sense.”
One of Anand’s first drawings was of Paradigm Health hospice patient Wayman Davis. His wife had provided a photograph of him in his military uniform. The graphite pencil artwork was a labor of love for Anand, who was moved to hear that Mr. Davis’ wife was completely overwhelmed seeing his picture and by the sentimentality the art provided.
“Since my grandmother’s death, I’ve been interested in oncology and I’m currently working in a lab researching the impact of certain drugs on ovarian cancer metastasis,” Anand says. “I don’t yet know where I’ll be going for medical school, but I want to go somewhere where the culture and environment is collaborative rather than competitive so I can focus on learning and becoming a good physician.”
Art, specifically color, has always been fascinating to Anand. Whether it was the richness of color of royal blue marbles on the playground mulch or the beauty just found in the natural world, Anand says beauty can be found no matter where you are or what you are facing.
“When I’m doing a portrait – I strive to capture facial expressions, which are a unique type of natural beauty,” Anand says. “I started out drawing landscapes and beloved family pets, and eventually I taught myself to draw people. There is such joy in sharing my artwork with others and knowing it is able to touch them in some way or give them a connection to their loved one. Volunteering at Paradigm has been an incredibly valuable opportunity for me, and I’ve gotten as much from the experience as those I’ve been able to connect with through my art.”