Born and raised in Senegal, Fatime made a new home for herself in New York City more than 20 years ago. With a husband, son and full-time job, Fatime’s life was already full, but she felt something was missing.

“My mom is in her late 80s, and I don’t get to see her often, because it’s so costly to travel back home to Senegal.” 

Fatime began volunteering with Citymeals to fill that unique void in her life. She started serving lunch on Mondays at a senior center in Harlem and chatting with her older neighbors, who were well enough to get out of the house. When the volunteer coordinator asked Fatime if she’d like to visit with homebound meal recipients, “I said yes, right away.”

You are truly making a difference in these people's lives. You may be the only face they see during the week.

Through Citymeals’ Friendly Visiting program, Fatime was matched with 94-year-old Girlease, who was recovering from a stroke. She began receiving home-delivered meals after being discharged from a rehab hospital. This enabled Girlease to continue living independently in the same Harlem apartment she’s called home for 60 years. 

“The minute I saw her, I just fell in love!” Fatime recalls. That was five years ago and, since then the women have forged a special bond.

Fatime received a certificate of appreciation at our Volunteer Recognition Party.

Fatime visits her at least once a week, even if it means stopping by after a long day at work, before heading home to the Bronx. She’ll pick up something for them to eat and spend an hour or two chatting with Girlease in her kitchen. It’s welcome company for Girlease, who rarely gets out these days. And Fatime sees it as important time for herself – a chance to shift gears and relax. “It is a joy to see her and sit together,” Fatime says. “I feel as if I’m spending time with my mom.” 

Fatime often gives her a hand with tasks around the house, and her 12-year-old son has built a warm relationship with Girlease, too. He’s learning how to be of service to others, and together, they enjoy hearing Girlease’s stories about Harlem in the 1950s and how the neighborhood has changed.

“You are truly making a difference in these people’s lives,” Fatime points out. Other than their regular meal deliverer, she says, “You may be the only face they see during the week.”