BBH Changes People’s Lives: Why One Volunteer Keeps Coming Back
When Matt Sievers studied abroad in Thailand in 2017, he spent a week at a Buddhist temple that provides end-of-life care.
“The experience was so meaningful and when I came home to Seattle, I wanted to get involved in end-of-life care,” Matt says. “I was especially excited to find volunteer opportunities at Bailey-Boushay House (BBH) because they’re a cornerstone of the queer community in Seattle.”
Matt soon started volunteering and building a rapport with many BBH residents: He’d watch cartoons with one resident. He would paint another resident’s nails as that resident told him stories about life as a drag queen in the 1980s. He’d ask a quiet resident about a different photo on his wall every visit, and soon they were talking and laughing nonstop. And every week, Matt went door to door, inviting residents to Friday afternoon parties.
“I’d try to find a fun, unique way to invite each person,” Matt says. “For example, one resident goes by ‘King’ and I would knock on his door and pretend to be a jester, bowing and inviting ‘his majesty' to the party.”
After college, Matt became a BBH employee, working as a shelter advocate and supporting clients. He left that job when he started medical school at the University of Washington and he recently returned to BBH as a volunteer.
“Working at BBH more than anything else has made me realize that I want end-of-life care to be part of my medical practice,” Matt says. “When a patient realizes that they are at the end of their life, they often start reflecting on their values and the things that matter to them. There’s this willingness to open up and share that makes for really powerful connections. I find it so rewarding to take the time to have those difficult conversations to understand the core of who someone really is.”
While BBH is unable to resume weekly resident parties because of COVID-19, Matt is happy to spend time with residents individually during his volunteer hours — and to support BBH however he can.
“Exactly what I do may shift, but BBH is a place I always want to be involved with,” Matt says. “The culture there is like nothing I’ve ever seen. You can be having a really bad day and you go there and that just disappears. You’re in this environment where things aren’t always easy, but it's always accepting and loving. Bailey-Boushay House changes people’s lives.”