TODAY is a special day at the Council of Elders in the Roxbury section of Boston. Charles Hutchinson, from Ghana, and Estera Boszormenyiova, from Czechoslovakia, are visiting. As part of the Foreign VIP ``reverse'' Peace Corps program, they offer these adults friendship and activity - from doing the hokey-pokey to a serious discussion of life in their homelands. Each day up to 45 senior citizens drop in at the Council of Elders (COE) for lunch, arts and crafts, games, and other activities.
The volunteers ``are a lot of help,'' says Carmela Schemendia, program coordinator at COE. ``They work one-to-one. The clients - they really enjoy it. ... It's good for them to see different people in here.''
Ms. Schemendia tells how one woman's life was touched: ``Sophia was very quiet and nobody knew her language,'' she says. Sophia speaks Russian. ``But when Estera came, she had a happy moment!'' says Schemendia. Sophia started to dress up when she knew Estera was coming, she adds.
``When she knew I was speaking Russian, she was so happy,'' Ms. Boszormenyiova said later, as she showed Czech postcards to women gathered around a table.
Mimi Evans calls the volunteers ``very lovely. [Their] taking time out to talk to us ... people coming from different countries, I'm glad to meet them,'' she says.
``She is very, very wise,'' says Mr. Hutchinson of Ms. Evans. ``Many of them have a lot of wisdom,'' he says, after playing a game of dominoes. ``See that man there?'' he says, pointing to a man looking out the window. ``He knows some great history.''
``In my country, the old people are needed and have a very high place. They are custodians of wisdom and history,'' Hutchinson continues. ``Here, the old people are relegated to the background - same as little children, if you are dependent,'' he laments.
By not rejecting them and opening up, ``you show some signs of confidence in them,'' he says, ``to see that they are not actually what we are supposed to believe.''