Edit: This article originally appeared on my first website fierygivingtree.com which I’ve since closed.
Since October, I have been volunteering with one of the Salvation Army’s local foster home/group home. To date, I have logged about 30 hours with them, typically going for three to four hour stretches and it has enabled me to get to know a lot of the children and work with the different age groups.
As a volunteer, I’ve had many opportunities like: leading a percussion band of boys, taking part in a toy motorcycle jumping contest, pushing little ones on a swing (until my arms hurt), being an official monkey bar helper, cleaning tables, leading them in craft projects, playing basketball, holding an infant for hours, feeding the younger ones, and playing monkey-in-the-middle (the nine-year old version), etc, etc. The tasks are varied and I try to go where I am needed. The key for me is being able to support the children. At times, it seems like they are bored and I’ve had the opportunity to bring in craft projects for the older girls: making beaded bracelets and then fimo clay stars. Typically though, I am tagging along to the park to entertain the children or entertaining them outside on their campus…and at times, watching various kid programming with them (saw my first Sponge Bob episode!)
I have been volunteering for months and yet, been unmotivated to write about it, perhaps because it has been such a personal experience. My time there has been spent getting to know their different personalities and witnessing the struggles they are going through. I don’t know the background stories for any of the children but they are there (by default) because their home life was not a healthy environment. To watch these kids, you can see (and it would be easy to assume) the stress being uprooted from their homes has caused on them. Frequently there are outbursts but there is also a lot of camaraderie that happens amongst the children. It is really wonderful to see how some of the older children will mother the younger children and show joy to be around them. It has been a joy for me too, getting to know them and slowly building rapport with them. I have an especially soft spot in my heart for the younger children.
And so, I finally feel motivated to write because one of my favorite “younger” ones will soon be placed at another location. Over these months of volunteering, I’ve joked with my mate about adopting her and warned that whenever she left it would be a very sad day for me. And so, it is a rather sad day, but I’m glad for all the times I was able to support her and spend time with her. It was such a neat opportunity to spend time with a very dynamic four-year old with a strong will and tender heart. I am already sad to think of my next visit and not seeing her.
To volunteer at a foster home is definitely challenging, you run the risk of forming connections with children that will soon be gone, it is a stressful situations and they can act immature or throw tantrums; but they can also run up to you and hug you or say them missed you. For me, it has been a great experience and if you are interested in working with children, I would recommend it, just steel your heart for them all leaving one day.
Benefits of volunteering at a foster home –
- Virtually no training necessary – the leads will find activities for you!
- Children are wonderful – they are smart, funny, generous and caring – and will keep you on your toes!
- You can make an immediate impact on a life – a tiny bit of encouragement can go a long way.
- It is rewarding!
Who you’ll be working with –
- Children! Your volunteer opportunity would determine the age and children do have different personalities at the various ages. Younger have a reputation of being sweeter while older children often get a bad rap but can make-up for any potential “attitude” with their deep thoughts. At all ages, they will definitely offer something in return.
- Depending on the agency, you may be the only volunteer.
- A leader of the children, often very skilled at handling all situations with big hearts to be in such a challenging role.
Level of commitment necessary – (ranges by location)
- Typically negotiable, the more time you spend, the stronger your connection will be with the children.
- A background screening will be required for most (all) locations.