When volunteers came into our NEW homes this year, they were tasked with a specific mission: A group from Morgan Stanley painted the YEP classroom; A group from Reid Temple AME brought lunch for the women; a group from Deloitte organized a holiday party. These capable volunteers assisted us with solutions to real needs. And we were so grateful. But something else happens when our willing and compassionate volunteers come through our doors, something that may be deeper and more meaningful in the long run: They connect with the NEW women and kids, and they begin to see them not as problems that need to be solved, but people who are striving to be happy and build new futures. We saw that when volunteer Elizabeth got out the Uno cards and challenged 10-year-old Kassandra to a game.
We saw that when volunteer Christina lingered after her yoga class, to speak with Serenity about breathing and the intersection of singing and yoga. We saw that when Kathy dropped off lunch for our women at Rachael’s House and stayed to join them in a little song.
When women come to us seeking help, it is often after a long road of suffering from the physical and mental stress of being homeless. We can give them a place to stay. But what is more challenging is restoring the women’s sense of self-worth and confidence which must come before there is stability and independence. This does not happen overnight. And it requires more than just NEW’s support — it takes a village.
Having volunteers treat the women of NEW with compassion and respect goes a long way and even little interactions can have big (and positive!) outcomes for the women. For the volunteers, the experience is not just nuts and bolts of the work, such as when the Morgan Stanley crew painted the space where our Youth Enrichment Program kids meet. It’s the heart that goes into the volunteering that brings a multitude of returns for all.
As Mahatma Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We are so grateful for our volunteers!
Wanda Steptoe Executive Director, NEW