After Khadija Shaikh lost her aunt to stage-four kidney cancer, she realized how deeply illness can impact a person and their family in ways most people never understand. That experience inspired her to give back to others and helped her discover her passion for philanthropy. At 13 years old, she was too young to volunteer at Levine Children’s Hospital, but Khadija was not discouraged. She organized a bake sale through her Sunday School to raise awareness and vital funds for patients at Levine Children’s, which became an annual tradition and led to her becoming a Young Ambassador for Atrium Health. As soon as she turned 15 and was eligible to volunteer, she was in the hospital helping anywhere she could. Khadija’s story inspired us, so we sat down with the now 16-year-old to learn more about her passion for giving back.
Khadija Shaikh: A typical day for me as a volunteer is full of sharing smiles with my fellow volunteers, the Levine Children’s Hospital teammates, and the patients I spend time with. The first thing I do is meet with the volunteer coordinator’s assistant to get the schedule of tasks I have for that day. I usually work alone, heading up to the 12th-floor storage closet to grab games and supplies that patients ask for, visiting every floor to ask the nurses if they need any help, and hanging up flyers for activities happening throughout the hospital. I sometimes help in the Seacrest Studio and assist with donations or directing supplies where they need to go within the hospital. I help anywhere and everywhere that I’m needed, which is what I love to do! When I’m done for the day, I say “thank you” to everyone I worked with that day before I leave. My typical day of volunteering at LCH is awesome!
AHF: Tell us your favorite thing about being a regular volunteer at Levine Children’s Hospital.
KS: I love everything about volunteering at LCH, but if I must choose it would be the people I interact with daily. Every person has a story, a life journey. Interacting with so many people a day, I hear all types of stories. I meet people from different backgrounds and I love to hear about their journeys. I also enjoy talking with the hospital staff, listening to their passions and learning how much they love working at the hospital – it excites me! It also allows me to be exposed to different areas in the health field. The teammates I work with are the people behind the smiles you see on each patient’s face. They’re the real dream-workers.
AHF: You are currently a junior at Cox Mill High School in Concord, NC. What are your plans after graduation and how has your volunteer experience helped to prepare you for that goal?
KS: I’m not quite sure of the exact profession I want to go into, but I do know that I have a love for children and I want to work in a hospital one day. Having the volunteer experience at LCH has allowed me to see first-hand the different careers in health care and has helped narrow down my options for working with pediatric patients. Through my volunteering, I can witness the impact healthcare workers have on a sick child’s life and being able to make the patients happy and help them smile through their difficult journey is an opportunity I don’t want to give up. I am also passionate about art and am intrigued by the Arts for Life program at LCH, as well as Art Therapy. There are just so many options I could pursue, it is difficult to choose just one! Hopefully, with more volunteer experience and more time as an Atrium Health Young Ambassador, I’ll be able to find a career I love.
AHF: What advice do you have for other young people who are looking for ways to give back to their community?
KS: If you want to give back to your community, know that there are plenty of places you can give to – places filled with huge, hopeful hearts. I am a big believer in community service because I think one of the best ways to spend your time is improving the world around you. Giving back to the community is something anyone can do at any age. If you want to start on a small scale, consider raising money for a cause. I am part of a group of young individuals who share my passion for fundraising and reaching out to young kids who spend much of their childhood in a hospital. Being a part of that group has really changed my life. Opportunities like the Young Ambassador program welcome those who are caring, loving, and passionate about helping the community. So, if you want to look for ways to give back, I would suggest finding something you are most passionate about and pursuing it.