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Imagine recently asked our volunteers if we have kept our promise to them to create a safe and supportive place to volunteer. Here is just one of many responses we received. This one is from Rob Shaffer, volunteering at Imagine since October 2018.
Has Imagine kept its promise to be a safe and supportive place to volunteer?
When I first read the question, I was perplexed by the word “safe.” I mean, I work with kids who are somewhere between 6 and 12 (depending on whether I have my own Night of Support group or am subbing on another night). I’m not exactly worried about my safety with any of them, I’m a lot more likely to be worried about keeping them safe both for structured activities and general play. But after I subbed the other night it occurred to me that “a safe place” doesn’t just have to be about physical safety. The real safety for me is in the support from the pre and post groups. I have rarely been in a place where I felt that I could share my own insecurities about how I’m doing, learn from others’ experiences and just have a general feeling of warmth and pleasure in the company of some really fine people. When I went through training, I don’t think I fully appreciated the importance of pre and post group sessions. They sounded a lot like administrative meetings. But the sessions are not like that at all. They are support for the supporters and the support is fabulous. Safe? Supportive? Unbelievably so.
What keeps me coming back?
It’s a little counterintuitive to try to explain to someone that the happiest night of my week is volunteering at a grief support center. Unless that person is also an Imagine volunteer. Then you just get smiles and knowing nods.
1. I love the kids. They can be complete lunatics one second and incredibly thoughtful and sensitive to the feelings of others in another second. Sometimes I think the volcano room is as much for me as it is for them.
2. I love my team of co-facilitators. They are three of the finest people I’ve ever been around. They made me feel at home immediately. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never been in a new situation where my three mentors were two sixteen-year-olds and a 24-year-old grad student, but that’s what I got…and I am completely in awe of them. They just changed my life and made it better. That simple. I adore them and I would do anything for them.
3. I love the rest of my NOS facilitators. The value of pre and post sessions was a little lost on me at first, but over time, I’ve come to realize just how great it is to spend time with such kind and thoughtful people. We laugh a lot, we support each other, we’ve become friends. And I feel like I can completely be myself in their presence.
4. I love the Imagine staff. They teach me. They support me. They make me laugh. They have infinite patience with my tendency to joke about virtually anything and my impatience with certain processes and rules. They are deep listeners in a world of talkers. That is both rare and wonderful to be around.
What is the best part about being a volunteer at Imagine?
It may seem counterintuitive to say that the best night of my week is working at a grief support center. But I know that I am not alone among the volunteers in feeling exactly that way. When I am there, I am completely engaged in the moment. I’m not worrying about the outside world or any personal problems I have. There is nothing quite like it. When I am there, I am happy. I don’t know what could be better than that.
Pictured L-R are the Green Group Facilitators on NOS V: Kelly Greiner, Chatham; Mackenzie Kuhl, Westfield; Rob Shaffer, Westfield; Sara Miller, Westfield.