For those of us, who grew up with role models like brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers who guided our decisions and lives, it can be difficult to imagine life without even one of these people who helped shape us into who we are. How could we become the person that we want to be without our many role models and mentors?
Many children have to face this question every day without the comforting luxury of having a strong and supporting figure to rely on. For one reason or another, these children are forced to grow up without the guidance that many others take for granted. How can they grow into who they want to be on their own?
The truth is, with the help of big-hearted volunteers, they don’t have to. With mentoring programs like those at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, children can experience real and loving relationships that give them direction and guidance in their lives. Volunteering to help these children in their time of need will have a very tangible and impactful effect on their lives.
Stephanie Rokich has experienced this effect more than most as the Community Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for United Way of Salt Lake. Ever since she studied social injustice at Gonzaga University in Washington, Stephanie has been interested in volunteer work to help those in need. “As cliché as it sounds, I want to make the world a better place,” she said. Over the course of ten years, Stephanie experienced many ways to help people, including volunteering.
But for many people, volunteering has become an ugly word, associated with hard work and massive demands on time. Stephanie is doing her best to help people see past these misconceptions about volunteer work. She knows that not everyone can be Mother Teresa. “First, you have to find something you’re passionate about,” she advised. Just as some people are suited for big jobs like volunteering at the homeless shelter, others are more happy and comfortable helping in smaller, but no less important ways. “(We want to) make people see they’re part of a solution,” Stephanie said.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes as well. There are many ways to help out kids who need us, without fear of succumbing to the imagined pressure from volunteering. When asked about her two mentorships at BBSU, Stephanie said, “It is the most fun you can have as a volunteer. I get as much out of (the relationship) as my Little does.”
By volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, not only can you improve a child’s life, but you can change your own life as well. Though volunteer work can seem like an intimidating gauntlet at first glance, it doesn’t have to be. By using your passion and talents to your advantage, what seems like a simple gesture can make a world of difference to those who need a helping hand. – Alex Harrington
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