FROM READERS: Working with children who have disabilities offers rewards

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Shonte Reed is a senior at MU, where she studies biological sciences.

There are various community service opportunities around the Columbia community, but one of the most rewarding experiences that people can have is working with children who have disabilities.

Services for Independent Living is a local community organization whose mission is to maximize independence for people with disabilities. I started volunteering with them in September.

I specifically volunteered with Kids in the Kitchen, a program that helps teach middle to high school age students the fundamentals of cooking, nutrition and safety when it comes to being in the kitchen. We would make sure that they could be independent in the kitchen while assisting where necessary.

Seeing kids overcoming adversity and slowly learning how to become independent made me realize how much is taken for granted. It is easy for me to go into my kitchen, measure out what my recipe called for and start cooking a meal. For the children I worked with, it has never been that simple and probably never will. What I took for granted is what the children were working so hard to overcome. This changed my perspective on how I view my life. I realized that I, a person without disabilities, take for granted walking, feeding myself and the chance to have a higher education.

Services for Independent Living isn’t the only organization in Columbia that people can volunteer with. Special Olympics is also another great organization that helps people with disabilities. Activities include dances, sports, and the Polar Plunge.

With so many volunteer opportunities in Columbia, I strongly encourage working with children with disabilities.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From the Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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