As a volunteer in our Match Grant* program, Ayleen was paired with a newly arrived family from Afghanistan, and helped them to get settled into their new life here in America. She helped the family (who was expecting a new baby!) get to medical appointments, tutored them in English, and basically mentored them as they adjusted to life in a brand new country.
For National Volunteer Week, we asked Ayleen to tell us a little about why she volunteers, and what she gets out of it.
1.) How did you get involved with LSS?
In late spring of 2017, I started to feel restless about my lack of meaningful contribution to the community. One evening, I googled “volunteer programs Jacksonville” and LSS was one of the organizations that came up in my search. I immediately completed a volunteer application and was lucky enough to land a spot doing exactly what I wanted to do, working with a refugee family in the LSS Match Grant Program. The staff at LSS has been so warm and welcoming, full of knowledge and encouragement. I also feel very lucky to have been assigned to Maryam, Ehsanullah, and their little girls.
2.) What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
It is such a difficult thing to put into words! For me, it is the small moments and the seemingly insignificant triumphs that make me grateful for my volunteer experience. Days when the English words that I am teaching Maryam really stick and she repeats them perfectly in a sentence. The day when all the scrambling we did to get a Florida ID card works out and we leave the DMV with a newly printed/still-warm ID in hand and big smiles on our faces. The afternoon I got a call letting me know that she gave birth to the little baby girl we were so eagerly expecting. The days when Ehsanullah sends me messages of such kindness and thankfulness that it makes me feel like I should do even more. The nights when I sit quietly by myself and have the profound sense that the time I’m investing is really impacting this family in a way that I do not, even yet, fully understand.
3.) If someone has some spare time on their hands, why should they consider volunteer work?
I think to answer that, I first have to address why people don’t volunteer. You come up with all the reasons why you don’t have the time or why you might not be the best person to pursue a particular volunteer opportunity; you decide that it is something you will do next year or the year after that and you never do it. I did those things, I made those arguments, and then I decided to just jump right in. I have been at turns challenged, elated, tired, a little frazzled, but I have never once regretted volunteering.
We are so grateful that Ayleen “decided to just jump right in,” and even more grateful that she chose LSS! Thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers, at LSS and everywhere, who are making our community a better place!
*Match Grant is a federal program that provides matching dollars to resettlement agencies for cash and in-kind contributions (including volunteer hours) donated by the community.