Resiliency, confidence, and competence are just a few important qualities that children should possess and build upon as they grow up. These qualities tend to be developed by life experiences and connections made along the way. In addition to proper physical growth and development through healthy lifestyles with good nutrition and activity, there are also non-medical necessities that contribute to nurturing these qualities and ensuring the health and well-being of our patients.
Here in Nevada, over 5,000 people experience homelessness on any given night, of which 22% of those individuals are children. Aside from homelessness, 1 in 6 Nevadan children experience hunger or food insecurity. If the basic needs of having a safe home and access to food are not being met, how can we ensure that these children are living their best and healthiest lives?
One avenue that should be explored to address this problem surrounds the idea of bridging the gap between pediatricians and nonprofit organizations within our community to share pertinent resources to those who need them the most.
One local nonprofit organization in particular that has been making incredible strides in the Las Vegas community is The Just One Project (TJOP). Its mission is “to create a stronger, healthier, and connected community through volunteerism while increasing access to food and services.” Services include a no-cost community market, grocery delivery, childhood nutrition education, senior hunger programs, rapid rehousing, English classes, self-development classes, and youth leadership programs. Monthly, TJOP serves over 20,000 people, distributes over 600,000 pounds of groceries, mobilizes over 750 volunteers, and mentors over 200 youth participants in civic engagement and self-development.
I had the honor of volunteering with them this summer to help run their annual summer camp for children, Camp Just One. I got to experience, firsthand, what TJOP does for people in our community every day and I am excited to share their services with the medical community so we can work together to reach those who could greatly benefit from these resources.
Camp Just One is a free week-long summer camp for children aged 11-17. There is a different theme every week ranging from art, travel, sports, medical, criminal justice, and entrepreneurship. While at camp, children are able to learn from speakers relating to the specific theme of the week while also volunteering with the organization to have their own part in touching the lives of people in their community. Additionally, a licensed clinical social worker works with the kids every day for 90 minutes. In these sessions, the kids are able to have open conversations about who they are, where they come from, and who they strive to become.
Each session corresponds to a different activity that aims to embrace self-growth and character development in order to foster those crucial qualities like resiliency, confidence, connection, leadership, and dependability. Camp Just One serves as a safe place where kids can be who they are without having to worry about their outside responsibilities or anything that may be troubling them at home.
As an aspiring pediatrician, I understand the importance of advocating for the well-being of our patients as they grow to become their own people through the qualities mentioned above. Through community-based resilience-building, we can work with both parents and community leaders at these local non-profit organizations to ensure that our patients are having their physical, mental, emotional, and intellectual needs met while engaging themselves within their own communities.
Ways we can spread the word and share the resources could be to include information on these resources with discharge paperwork to send home with our patients and their families. Another option is providing advertisements in the pediatric offices of these organizations so that families can learn about them at their own discretion.
Above all, I believe the most impactful way we can help our patients is to encourage an open dialogue so that we can identify their needs. This can help foster an environment where we can share medical information that also takes social determinants of health into account. Staying up-to-date on what these local organizations have to offer will not only help us be better physicians to our patients, but help us in being better community leaders in keeping our patients and their families healthy in all aspects of their lives, outside of just medicine.