By Rebecca Goodman
In January of 2020, My friend Lindsay Whelan (Winsor School ‘23) and I started a tutoring program with Boston Community Pediatrics (BCP). We collaborated with Paloma Suarez, BCP’s Director of Pediatric Wellness and Care Navigation. The plan was for students from both of our high schools to tutor patients of BCP.
The three of us had our first meeting on Google Meet right after the New Year. By the end of the month, we had launched the program and already recruited some tutors. The very first match we made was between Virginia Devonshire and a 6-year-old patient. They had their first meeting at the beginning of February over zoom, and they have been having sessions weekly ever since (save a few weeks over the summer).
Not only were their sessions productive and helpful to the patient, but they also fostered a very close bond between the two of them. Quickly, the patient started to end their calls by telling Virginia that she loved her. She also often draws Virginia pictures of the two of them or will draw hearts on the screen. The appreciation and adoration that the patient shows for Virginia is incredibly moving. Virginia has had a concrete impact on the patient’s life- the quality of her schoolwork improved marginally since their work together commenced. Of their bond, Virginia says, “it’s really cool that I’ve become more than just a tutor but a friend to her.”
Due to COVID-19, and the fact that the patient’s age prohibited her from being vaccinated until recently, Virginia and the patient had never met in person, despite all the time they spent together on zoom, and how much their relationship means to them.
Last week, BCP had a holiday shop for the patients and their families. Virginia, Lindsay, myself, and other friends were helping out. As I was helping a family collect their toys, I suddenly heard Lindsay shouting my name. At first, I was alarmed. Then I heard “it’s *patient’s name*!” I sprinted over to see Virginia and the patient face to face for the first time. The patient, at first, did not recognize Virginia, and we all giggled as her face morphed from confusion into surprise into joy. They hugged, after knowing each other for almost a year, finally getting to see each other in real life.
The patient was smiling from ear to ear. She was giddy. Virginia teared up, we all did. It was extraordinarily gratifying to see the two of them together.
It is amazing what Virginia was able to accomplish in terms of both teaching and relationship building in under a year and through a screen. Seeing the two of them together in person was proof of how important the work of the tutoring program is.
We hope that as more of our younger patients begin to get vaccinated, we can have more in-person meetings between tutor and patient.