Relationship building and support are undoubtedly two big aspects of the Regional Coordinator and VISTA Leader positions. We aim to guide the members in a genuine way throughout their year as they experience all of the good and tough times their position provides. I’ve found that this experience truly tests my ability to be an active listener and genuinely understand different perspectives.
I’ve also discovered how these skills from my position have proven to be valuable for many life experiences and has helped me improve relationships in other parts of my life. As a volunteer with the Power Project at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center it’s been especially worthwhile. Looking back to when I first wrote about my volunteer role I reflected on the beginning of getting to know the kids. It’s been about 6 months since I began and one of the rewards of this experience have been the sweet bonds with many of the young people in the program. As I’ve gotten to know each of them in different ways I’ve found that some of the best moments have been when I’ve really taken a moment to listen to them and be someone they can trust and share their thoughts and dreams with.
A few weeks ago one of the students, Syeenah, came up to me at the beginning of the program and told me that she was feeling sad. After asking her a few questions about why she was feeling that way, I told her that I’d be happy to talk with her more. We went outside of the room (where she instructed me to sit in “our spot,” a step on the stair case that we sat on months ago as we read a book) and began a really nice conversation. I asked her, “So, Syeenah, what’s on your mind today?” She replied in a very thoughtful manner with, “Weeellll, computers, writing, school, mommy” and many more people and things that mean a lot to her. We chatted about some of those things and then she abruptly asked me, “So, Miss Laura, what’s on your brain?” With a smile I told her about some of the things I care about and the people in my life as she intently listened to my story and asked me questions. I told her she could ask me anything she wanted about my life, anything at all she wanted to know (her main question was what was my favorite color). When she was ready we talked about what was bothering her and as she explained her thoughts it seems that she felt less tense and upset for the moment. Since I remembered she was thinking about writing I told her that sometimes I like to write in a journal when I’m feeling sad and how good it feels to let out feelings on paper. We talked a bit more and decided to go back in with the rest of the students.
When we returned to the Power Project room many of the students were doing homework, reading, or playing games so the room was busy to say the least. I was interacting with different kids at the same time but at the corner of my eye I noticed Syeenah folding up numerous pieces of paper, like a book. I saw her write a few words on the top of the paper. She kept looking at me and finally I asked her what she was up to, to which she quietly replied that she was making a journal. I definitely experienced one of those heart-warming feelings and felt like our conversation paid off in many ways. 🙂