Local Voices

A Pre-Med Student Discusses her Christmas Project

I am Haley Sykes, a junior at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise. I am a Cell and Molecular Biology major with hopes of becoming a doctor one day. My twin sister, Kaley, also wants to become a doctor.

This year we have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with the Graduate Medical Education Consortium of Southwest Virginia through our school’s pre- professional club. Over the past 3 months we have had the opportunity to meet and connect with families from Inman Village.

My sister and I attended the October event where we handed out fresh produce donated from a UVa Wise professor who gleans at local farms. Then we helped plan and run the November event, which talked about how to buy healthy food cheaply in the area.

For December’s program, the Christmas Market was scheduled during the college’s winter break and we were already home. That did not stop us from driving the extra hour to help out. We are also in the middle of studying for the MCAT and that very day we also had a meeting with admissions from a medical school. We made the drive to Inman quizzing each other on MCAT questions.

Despite having a full plate, we enjoy volunteering in the community, and were very excited for the Christmas Market. We helped plan it, and over the last few visits to Inman, Kaley and I had formed strong connections with the children.

The Christmas Market consisted of locally donated items of all kinds ranging from toys and games to clothes and decorations. Each child was asked to pay one dollar for an entry fee to gain some responsibility; parents we asked in October and November said they wanted the kids to pay something. In addition, all proceeds were donated back to the church that so graciously hosted us. We want to thank the Inman Baptist Chapel for allowing us to use their sanctuary and kitchen for the event, Each child was allowed to pick out 12 items for gifts for their family and friends, including one for themselves. 

We had a very great turn out with about 50 children attending the event along with their parents. Kaley and I also prepared the chicken casserole meal for the night; we did it the night before. After the kids shopped, their parents and they were able to eat the meal in the kitchen, or take it to go.

Kaley and I had a wonderful time helping out. We got to personally help the kids pick gifts for people on their list and help them wrap each gift. It was very rewarding when the children walked in the church and shouted our names. They had remembered us from previous trips and some could even tell us twins apart. We look forward to seeing them again in the future and continuing to volunteer with the GME Consortium.

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