"Some Kids Have No Family to Call." Volunteer Mentors Provide Invaluable Service for Youth

January 28, 2020

Verbalizing the value of volunteers can be difficult for some, but not so much for those who have been beneficiaries of their selfless generosity.

Just ask Nikki, a UMFS Child & Family Healing Center (CFHC) alumna. “There are some kids that have no family to call or turn to,” Nikki said. “And the only person that is willing to give them validation is a volunteer.”

A week before successfully completing her months-long residential program in December, Nikki and her volunteer mentor, Olga, gave a moving presentation to the UMFS Executive Team and Board. Nikki’s summation of the experience included multiple examples of how Olga helped her break down barriers.

“Usually when I first meet someone, I tend to be very quiet,” Nikki admitted. “But with Ms. Olga, that wasn’t the case at all. We immediately hit it off.” Olga grinned and expressed just how fortunate she felt to have made a connection. “I secretly think that I enjoyed the experience more than Nikki,” Olga said with a laugh. “We both really enjoyed it.”

Volunteers who mentor at CFHC work with youth ranging in ages 11-18. Some mentors and mentees like to spend their time together walking and talking, while others enjoy playing sports or board games. Each mentor-mentee relationship is unique in that no two follow the same schedule of events. Each mentor-mentee relationship is the same in that it creates opportunity and forges meaningful relationships.

“Ms. Olga would surprise me with different activities,” Nikki said excitedly. “Painting, drinking tea [that Ms. Olga brought from her native Russia], making our own essential oils, and putting together unique crafts for each holiday.”

Added Olga: “Ever since we tried yoga together, it’s been part of my morning routine for the last three months.”

As the weeks progressed, so too did Nikki and Olga’s bond. “She was willing to talk to me about anything and gave me advice when I needed it,” Nikki said. “It felt like my time at UMFS went by much faster because I had someone to hang out with every week.”

Olga echoed the sentiment. “Seeing Nikki every week was like hanging out with a friend.”

‘Relationships are Our Building Blocks’ is one of UMFS’s core values, and Olga and Nikki are a shining example of that. They exemplify what a healthy, organic and mutually beneficial relationship can look like.

Olga said what she’s experienced through volunteerism is “so much more than I ever expected.” Nikki said the opportunity to have a volunteer mentor made her feel cared for and warm. “The point I’m trying to make,” she said, “is that volunteer mentors give children at UMFS something to look forward to.”

January is National Mentoring Month. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a volunteer at the UMFS Child & Family Healing Center, please visit UMFS.org/volunteer.