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Volunteering...It's All in the Shah Family

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Volunteering...It's All in the Shah Family

Ashika Shah was looking to do more in the community while she was working in Boston and applying to grad school to study occupational therapy. After searching online, she came across FriendshipWorks’ Friendly Visiting program. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for Ashika and marked the beginning of the Shah family’s involvement with FriendshipWorks. Ashika says, “Helping people is in my soul.” She and her Friendly Visiting match Ree hit it off right away. 

Ashika describes their relationship as one of “two caring people who came together to care about each other.” Ashika has fond memories of sitting in Rhea’s apartment, next to her cat, while Ree played the violin, and of inviting Ree over to watch the Superbowl. For Ashika, Ree was a new best friend she always looked forward to seeing.

Ashika’s twin sister Shivani accompanied her on visits with Ree, going for walks or doing errands. For Shivani and Ashika, their time with Ree filled a void — their grandparents were back in England where they grew up. Ashika says, “It’s like we were building our own family here in the states.” Shivani grew to love her time with Ree and continued the visits when Ashika left Boston for graduate school. The three of them stayed connected until Ree’s passing in 2020. Shivani was so touched by this relationship that she volunteered for a match of her own. This is how she met Carol.

Carol and Shivani have been matched for a few years now and Shivani treasures their special relationship. The two like to meet for tea or coffee and discuss their shared love for embroidery, movies, and books. Shivani describes Carol as an “incredible woman” who is a great listener and a great friend.

The Shah sisters credit their mother and grandparents for instilling in them the drive to give back. Ashika recalls volunteering as a child and being influenced by her mother, who had worked as a nurse for many years. She explains, “ My mom and my grandparents are very caring, giving people.” This is why Ashika and Shivani have both pursued careers in the healthcare industry. 

When Ashika and Shivani’s grandmother passed away four years ago, during the pandemic lockdown, they were not able to go back to the UK to be with family. The sisters felt the loss deeply, but their mother, Deeta, was even more profoundly affected. Deeta shared a very close relationship with her mom, whom she used to speak to on the phone every day at 9 a.m. When her mother died, Deeta felt a huge hole in her life.

Shivani and Ashika coaxed Deeta into volunteering for FriendshipWorks to fill the void and give her purpose again. It made a world of difference. Deeta loves supporting her Friendly Visiting match Amy* by helping her to feel comfortable and safe, and in return Amy loves hearing about Deeta’s life, especially the details and plans for Ashika’s upcoming wedding.

Deeta shares that as a child her parents taught her, “We take with two hands and always have to give back equally.” She lives her life by this philosophy and believes that FriendshipWorks embodies it. Deeta highly recommends the experience: “I wish everyone knew about FriendshipWorks.” In Ree, Carol, and Amy, the Shahs have found the love of an extended family close to home.

*Amy is a pseudonym.