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National Service and Inclusion Project

Inclusion: The active engagement of people with disabilities as service members in all levels of national and community service

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Photo of Rachel Goldberg

Participant: Doris Wanamaker
Host Site Partner: Dorothy Burgess-Goldberg

Program: Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Montgomery County, PA, Inc.
Service: Homefriend to Rachel Goldberg, providing companionship to Rachel and respite to Rachel’s mother, Dorothy Burgess-Goldberg.

Interview with Dorothy Burgess-Goldberg


  2. SERVICE 1
  3. SERVICE 2

1. INTRODUCTION:             real audio clip icon

DOROTHY BURGESS-GOLDBERG: I’m Dorothy Burgess-Goldberg. I’m Rachel Goldberg’s mother. We have been having home-friends for probably  at least 8 or 9 years. Our first home-friends were Betty and Doris who came together. Doris was in a wheelchair and Betty came to support her; they lived in the same senior citizens’ facility. We requested someone for Rachel to have her very own home-friend, and the idea behind it was the home friend would come for one hour a week and do whatever the kid wanted to do. Very often she would take them into her room and close the door or get very annoyed if I said more than "hello"  to them because I was infringing on their private time.

So lots of times I had no idea what they did but usually they spent a lot of time playing dolls and role-playing playing Barbies. One time they were playing school and Rachel was the teacher…The home-friends rules are they are not allowed to take the kids out and the parents aren’t allowed to leave. But just to have an hour to take a hot soak or read a magazine, and to know that your child is being entertained with their choice of entertainment…It continues to be wonderful.

2. SERVICE 1:             real audio clip icon

DOROTHY BURGESS-GOLDBERG: First of all, having Doris come here, (of course because our house is wheelchair accessible she could not just volunteered anywhere) having her here as a role model was a plus from many dimensions. First of all she was a manual wheelchair user. Rachel has a power chair, but [Doris] went everywhere. It introduced Rachel to Paratransit because they came here on it.

They were very supportive. They reinforced from a motherly or grandmotherly perspective what I was trying to teach Rachel and became her personal friends. It was also interesting when Rachel’s father died—both of them were widows—they were very supportive of me.  We probably had a relationship with Doris for five years. It was such a positive experience when Doris could no longer come, we asked for another home-friend.

3. SERVICE 2:              real audio clip icon

DOROTHY BURGESS-GOLDBERG: But we learned a lot from Doris. She would not talk about all the things that were wrong with her or what landed her in the wheelchair. The fact that she just got out here on a weekly basis, usually dressed and the hair curled; it was obviously therapeutic for her but it was a two-way thing it was very therapeutic for us.

3. DISABILITY AWARENESS:              real audio clip icon

DOROTHY BURGESS-GOLDBERG: We have a lot of accessibility issues and I can only hope that they are getting better. I think they are in the 18 years that Rachel’s been doing this. But we still have a big big ways to go. And educating the public…We’re coming [along] just because wheelchair users are more in the public eye. They are not going into nursing homes for the rest of their lives. People get used to seeing them; they are being included in regular school classes, so kids are growing up being comfortable around folks with wheelchairs. All of these things make a big impact.

Rachel, a lot of folks, if they aren’t used to the way she speaks, will have difficulty understanding her. It’s a big turn off to some people. And they assume that since she doesn’t speak well that she has nothing between her two ears which is not the case.

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©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.