By: Aleeha Noon~
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT - PRANAV SATHE
Second-year 2+4 BS/MD student Pranav Sathe has gone above and beyond as a camp counsellor at Via West, a camp located in the Bay Area of California seeking to provide a fun, enriching environment for those who live with disabilities. Read more about his experiences below!
Q1: What is Via West?
PS: Via West is an institution high in the mountains of the Bay Area for the mentally and physically disabled to come and enjoy camp life and do fun activities as a respite from everyday life. There are 3, 5, or 7-day sessions during which the campers, or participants, live in lodges and engage in camp activities and field trips or [attend] movie theaters or nearby parks and events.
Q2: How did you find out about the organization?
PS: I found out about Via West from my sister, who spent an entire summer working there. She told me about this amazing opportunity and I applied for a counsellor position at Via West, and here I am three years later, still working there.
Q3: What is your role at Via West?
PS: At Via West, I am a camp counsellor, so basically I am assigned to the participants and it is my job to get them ready in the morning, take them to the various activities planned throughout the day, and help them eat during the meals. Basically, I am the participants' caretaker and I also make sure they are really enjoying their camp experience.
Q4: What has been your favorite experience working here thus far?
PS: My favorite experiences at Via West always include the moments when the participants start laughing or express their excitement over whatever activity they are doing, whether it be swimming or drawing. This is because their lives outside are, to say the least, filled with adversity. Camp is designed as a reprieve from these adversities, and seeing that smile on their face or that laugh lets me know that they are experiencing happiness.
Q5: How has your time volunteering here impacted your life?
PS: Via West has deeply impacted my personality over these past three years. I try to stay more conscious about the disabilities different people face in all the different walks of life and some people using phrases such as "so many extra chromosomes" and " X person Down Syndromed so hard" does strike a chord in me because I work with people with such disabilities and their lives are no joke. Additionally, I have had to take care of my participants in the restroom and clean it after they are done using it, so I think I am very patient with unpleasant situations and cleaning them up. My friends know how concerned I get when they tell me they skipped a meal or aren't eating enough, and that attitude is partly from my experiences from camp, where I keep a vigilant eye over my participants eating enough and getting the proper nutrition they need.
Pranav's work at Via West is truly inspirational. It was a pleasure to learn about his experiences as a camp counselor and how he has touched so many lives in such a positive manner. Overall, from this interview, I took away the importance of doing for others whenever we can because even the smallest gestures can make a huge difference in a person's life. It also reinforced the fact that all people are unique, and the things that make us unique should not be seen as negative parts of us.