Kaitlyn Hampton, 2013

 In Featured, Leadership

I’m Kaitlyn Marie Hampton from Baltimore, Maryland. I have an associate’s degree in Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities with a concentration in Photography. I am currently working as a caregiver for individuals of all ages and abilities. Before Sprout I was working as a Barista at Starbucks while also helping a young man with autism during the evenings and weekends.

10665887_10152724388890792_5201351080099329954_nI found out about Sprout in 2013 through the Arc of Baltimore, an organization that assists adults with disabilities to find jobs and housing, and helps them make friends. My sister and I went to an event that the Arc was holding called the Sprout Touring Film Festival. There we enjoyed many films that made us laugh and cry, and motivated us to help others. At the end of the event, Founder Anthony Di Salvo spoke about the films, answered questions, and told us all about Sprout’s Travel Program. I later approached Megan, the Director of Leadership at that time, to get more information about volunteering.  I originally had intended to only pass along the info to my cousin, but after hearing all about the differences that volunteer Leaders make in the individuals’ lives, I knew this was the job for me.

There were two things that made my decision to volunteer with Sprout a no-brainier: First, the opportunity to continue to work with adults with disabilities; and second, the ability to positively impact their lives, but while on vacation! I would have the opportunity to indulge them in new cultures, new foods, and make sure they’re having nothing but a grand time!

My first trip was to Atlantic City, NJ. It was a whirlwind of emotions — from scared and nervous to relaxed and laughing. My energy and positive attitude made it easy to get the guys motivated, but then I was always trying to make sure everyone was DSC_0565enjoying themselves and doing what they wanted. At first it was exhausting trying to please everyone, but I later realized that as a group we should decide our activities and restaurants together to make it work. It’s all about teamwork and compromise, and I was able to develop this skill in myself and others.

I can remember all of the participants from my Atlantic City trip, but remember most clearly a mother and son who both have developmental disabilities. The son was shy and never wanted to leave his mother’s side. She was older and unable to walk as much as the others, so he ended up missing some of the activities in the beginning. But then after the first day, the other leaders and I were able to get him to come with us onto the beach and enjoy the ocean views and sounds while his mother rested on the bench. He even eventually started asking for his picture to be taken! It was such a great feeling!

cwvDm9asA_Lw9YsGTQNy8vWzhqA (2)The best part about Sprout is definitely the participants. You spend 3 to 8 days with the group, and by the end you’re attached to them and they’re attached to you. You learn nearly everything about them — their family and home life, their likes and dislikes. You are helping them with their activities of daily living like showering, brushing teeth or packing their suitcases, while at the same time joking and laughing. There are definitely challenges, too. There are days when not everyone gets along, not everyone is happy, or days you have to spend hours in hospital. Sometimes when someone is grouchy their attitude can rub off on others, even yourself, but you just have to remember to stay positive no matter what. And even though the days may be challenging, there’s nothing more rewarding than a hug, a thank you or a “good night beautiful!” at the end of the day.  By the end of every trip I get a wonderful feeling knowing that the participants are going home happy and that I got to be a part of it.

Sprout has given me a completely different outlook on my career and my life in general. It’s made me a kinder, happier and more open person. I’ve realized a simple “good morning”, “hello” or holding the door open for someone can turn their day unnamed (1)around or at least make it better. I look out for other people, always lending a hand. I’ve become more open to any situation thrown at me and more open to asking for help. Sprout has helped me realize that my true career path is working, helping and laughing with all those who have disabilities, to make a difference in their lives no matter how small. Sprout has made a difference in my life by making me a better person.

Coming back to Sprout year after year has been the easiest choice I’ve ever had to make. I come back because of the participants, so that I can continue making a difference in their lives, and continue a job that’s rewarding in multiple ways.  I come back so that I can keep having new and unique travel experiences, regardless of if I’ve already seen the destination 4 times already.  And finally, I keep coming back to the lifelong friends I’ve met (or will meet) — Friends that are now family.

10407512_10152425076360792_7123202599335627219_nVolunteering with Sprout is a once in a lifetime opportunity where you get to help others who may not be able to go on these trips otherwise. You get to travel the east coast and further. You get an opportunity to learn about yourself, how to better yourself, and how to treat others better. Volunteering with Sprout is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. People work every day, but if you want a job that pays more than money, Sprout is the place. The place where we make the invisible, visible.

Sprout is not only a volunteering program or travel program; it’s a small family bringing each leader, participant, family member or staff into their home and helping all of us grow for the better.

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