The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis’ (VNA) Visit-A-Bit program is designed to pair seniors with volunteers who visit with them every week, with the intent that they form genuine and lasting friendships. This has been the case for volunteer Ciri Pocha and senior participant Nancy Stocker, who have been visiting with each other since February of 2020.
Ciri is a pre-med student at SLU and joined Visit-A-Bit after hearing about it from her roommate who is a volunteer. Ciri loves working with senior populations and saw Visit-A-Bit as a new and interesting way to get involved with them. She was paired with Nancy right off the bat, and the two hit it off.
“I think it’s just really nice to have someone to check in with every week,” says Ciri. “And it’s been great to watch our friendship grow and develop over time as we reveal things to each other that are a little more personal to really get to know each other.”
Ciri says the two of them talk about everything. Conversations always start with a check-in, and then Nancy loves getting to answer the weekly questions provided by the Visit-A-Bit team. They also discuss their personal struggles, and that open conversation has created a special bond, something Ciri didn’t expect going into the program.
“I thought I’d talk to someone once a week, and I was nervous about what we might even talk about,” says Ciri. “In a phone conversation, all you really have is the person on the other end, and that’s actually made us closer because the only thing we can do is talk to each other.”
Because of the pandemic, all of Ciri and Nancy’s visits have been over the phone, except for one time last summer when they arranged to meet at Forest Park and visited the St. Louis Art Museum. Nancy’s husband joined them, and two of Ciri’s friends were in the park, so Nancy was able to meet them as well. “I’d seen pictures of [Nancy], but it’s just nice to meet someone in person after you’d been talking to them for so long,” says Ciri.
“We call each other sisters now, and we never hang up without saying ‘I love you,’” says Ciri. “Every time I talk to her, I’m equally rewarded with her friendship and the insights and advice she has for me. It’s great to learn from a new perspective… It’s not an opportunity you get very often, becoming friends with somebody from a different time and having a different perspective.”
“She gets me through the hard parts,” says Nancy. “She’s a sister that I never had. I love the daylights out of her, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.”