Sunday, March 16, 2008

Doubts about Volunteering? Read about Fred.

A lot of us are hesitant to volunteer - I think in large part due to doubts about the amount of time we think it will take, and the length of the commitment.

"But what if I want to go on a snowboarding trip to Austria?"
"What if I have to work late?"
"What if I want to move to another city?"

Well, Fred C. does all of that and more - read below about his experience volunteering in Boston.

Where do you volunteer?
Big Brother Big Sister in Boston. My little brother lives in Roxbury.

Why did you start volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and where did you hear about the opportunity?
I started volunteering because I was involved in coaching in Little League and youth soccer teams. I enjoy these very much, but I felt I was missing out on making that more personal one on one connection with the kids. This way I can become more involved in making an impact on a less-fortunate child’s life. I actually heard about this at an OYFP event (whiskey tasting) and signed up on the spot.

Nice! So OYFP is making a difference. Anyway. How many hours a week do you work there? Did you have to give up anything in order to have the time to volunteer?
My little brother and I usually get together every two weeks; the weekends work best for both of us. We’ll usually spend between 5-7 hours together when we hang out. I don’t really feel like I’m giving up anything when we get together. It’s nice because it gets both of us outside, and since we’re both active (and competitive) we can have a really good time.

What do you do with your little brother? Do you ever have a hard time coming up with activities?
We have gone rock climbing a few times, played some baseball, and basketball. When it’s cold or rainy out, we’ve played Nintendo Wii for awhile. Again, as it’s a fairly active game, and we’re both competitive, it’s lead to some intense (but very fun) tennis and boxing matches. There is always something to do - and the activities make it easy for us to get to know one another.

Oooo a Nintendo Wii. I just got one. There's nothing like a little sweating and yelling at your TV. I hope you two haven't "accidentally" thrown the Wii-motes at each other...
Not yet, no.

What is your favorite thing about mentoring, besides playing competitive Wii?

My favorite thing about mentoring is having that one on one relationship with someone and knowing you’re making an impact on that person. It’s also nice to see the progression of friendship starting with the first time I met Terrell, my little brother, up to this point. At first he was a bit shy and didn’t talk that much. Now, he’s very talkative, and we give each other a hard time when we play sports or other activities, like friends would normally do.

How does it compare to your other volunteer experiences?
This is definitely different, in a good way. It’s nice to be someone that can be depended on for someone who hasn’t had luck with dependable people in the past.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to jump on the mentoring bandwagon?
I’ve spoken with a few people who may have heard horror stories of hyperactive kids who don’t listen, or whose parents basically use it as a babysitting program. I haven't had that experience at all. People are also hesitant to commit - but meeting twice a month really isn't a big deal.

What have you personally (or professionally) gotten out of the experience?
I feel like I’m actually making a significant impact in someone else’s life, but not only that, I’ve had a lot of exposure to his community, and it’s given me the opportunity to reach out to others as well.

When you move to Chicago this fall, will you find a new little brother?
It will be hard to say good bye to Terrell, but I hope I can continue to make a difference, even if it's not in Boston.

Fred (on the far right) tells the whippersnappers how to play ball.
(We didn't have any photos of Fred and Terrell, but you can see Fred's clearly a good guy, involved in his community.)

This story is part of Casey's series of interviews with people who volunteer. Past interviews can be found on the OYFP Boston Blog.

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