Triplet volunteers prove three heads are better than one

September 28, 2010

By Elizabeth DeVos

Triplets Areesa, Selina and Khalil Somani (from left) divvy out who will take which dietary trays to patients at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center this summer. By Elizabeth DeVos

Many teenagers take the summer months to hang out with friends, do nothing or find a job to earn some extra money. For some teens, volunteering is a way to fill the summer months with something to do, while feeling good about themselves.

Sixteen-year-old Issaquah triplets — Areesa, Selina and Khalil Somani — volunteered at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland for four hours once a week throughout the summer.

“It’s really nice to feel like you’re needed somewhere,” Areesa said.

The teens found out about volunteering at Evergreen through their mom, who works at the hospital, and told them how great it was and how fun it would be to volunteer, Khalil said.

“You don’t realize how important it is to volunteer at a hospital,” he said.

Volunteering isn’t all these Issaquah High School sophomores do. Selina has been a dancer for the past 12 years through the Backstage Dance Studio in Bellevue. She performs in ballet, jazz, modern and lyrical.

Khalil has been an avid tennis player for the past five years, and is part of the Issaquah High School team. In the mornings, except Wednesdays, he plays tennis. He also plays the viola.

Areesa enjoys singing and taking voice lessons outside school, where she is an active member in the Key Club, Debate Club and Multicultural Club.

They are like any other siblings — they do fight, but they also get along.

“We have to use a lot of teamwork and help each other out,” Areesa said.

Khalil said that because they are triplets, they are all very close and know each other better than anyone else knows them.

Most of the time, the siblings enjoy working at the hospital, but like with every job, there are times when they wished they were not volunteering. Their tasks included delivering dietary trays to patients; taking samples to the labs; copying papers; writing down patient dietary needs; walking patients to where they needed to go; delivering flowers, food and coffee; and helping discharge patients after their hospital visit was over.

“I don’t like having to deliver samples. It can be kind of gross,” Khalil said. “You never know what exactly it is.”

Areesa didn’t mind working with others, but when she had to run the front desk by herself, it got overwhelming, especially when the phones wouldn’t stop ringing, she said.

Having the hospital color coded helped the three not get as lost as they might otherwise, Selina said.

“We do get lost sometimes,” she said.

All three said other staff members at the hospital were more than willing to help them find their way within the hospital.

They enjoyed making a difference while working at Evergreen, and it didn’t matter how small of a difference they made, any amount counted, they agreed. The impact they have made on the community and doing their civic duty has helped to make their volunteer work worth it.

“Just knowing I made a difference here, it could be just making someone smile or helping a patient feel more at ease,” Areesa said.

Many people don’t realize how important it is to volunteer, Khalil said. Every volunteer at the hospital means one less employee has to do one less thing.

“Before I was here, I was like, ‘Who needs a volunteer? I’m sure they have enough people,’” he said. “But after being here, it’s really important and most of the work is done by volunteers.”

Evergreen has more than 3,000 employees, but the jobs that the 1,700 volunteers do really makes a huge difference, according to Sherry Grindeland, with the Marketing and Public Relations Department at Evergreen.

“When they deliver something particularly into a patient’s room, sometimes the only people that that patient has seen in the last 24 hours are medical people,” she said. “To see someone with a smiling face come in, it brings in an instant smile to the patient.”

In 2009, volunteers saved Evergreen Hospital Medical Center $1,588,086. Volunteers distinguish themselves from paid hospital employees by wearing blue vests and a name badge around their necks.

The triplets said they look forward to volunteering again next summer.

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