A Little Volunteering…Continued Mentoring Years Later

Posing with our V-Day BootyTwo weeks ago I was playing around on Facebook as a way to procrastinate the real work I should have been doing when a chat window popped up – from a sweet young woman I met at the orphanage in Cambodia where I volunteered more than a year and a half ago.

Many of the older girls at the orphanage asked for my email and Facebook details at the time and we have very sporadically kept in touch, talking every month or so, mostly just quick hellos and messages from them imploring me to come back for a visit.

But the tone of this chat was different right off the bat. She seemed sad. And that’s saying a whole lot because the girls from the FLOW orphanage are eternally sunshiney and happy during our conversations, upbeat and enthusiastic about their studies and their life goals.

She had left the orphanage about a year ago to start her second year of college and take on a full time job. That meant this was her first year out of the control and protection of the orphanage environment and she was confused and overwhelmed, having a hard time balancing the need to make money and feed herself and her fierce desire for an education.

I listened to her, offered advice and encouragement – gave all of the support I could from the other side of the world to a woman who has experienced a life so far removed and different from my own.

Lucky with His PuppyThen days later an email arrived from Varanasi, India. Lucky was one of the most promising students I taught at the monastery in Nepal and I helped him prep for his University entrance exam while I was there. He got into the University and writes me regularly of his life, studies, and thoughts.

As I’m reading his email a different FLOW student chat messages me – she doesn’t understand the meaning of non-verbal communication, can I please explain. Twenty minutes later we’re still brainstorming fun situations that use non-verbal behavior.

Then another email. A different student needing advice.

The calls for mentoring rained down on me this past week.

Sometimes I feel so inept and useless. They are struggling with situations and rising up from situations I can’t even fathom. If I could afford to sponsor each and every one of them through college I would. But maybe that wouldn’t even be helpful.

So instead I give these kids the only thing I can, support and love. They’ve overcome so much; they dream of being doctors and lawyers, international translators, businessmen and politicians.

And I listen to their dreams and encourage. I am so thankful I chose to share a few weeks of my life and time with these students when I volunteered last year. They inspire me on a daily basis to look at life with a little bit more gratitude and thankfulness. Their passion and perseverance to achieve their goals is a monthly reminder to take stock of those things I take for granted and work a little harder to make a difference in my life and the world.

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18 Responses to A Little Volunteering…Continued Mentoring Years Later

  1. The Constant Complainer November 10, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Even though you knew it at the time, it’s amazing to see the reinforcement of the difference you’ve made in their lives and how you helped (and were there for) them. Volunteering and community service = staying sane and making a difference. Wonderful post!

    • Anonymous November 11, 2010 at 3:56 am #

      Thank you so much! I’m a big advocate of volunteering and the reasons to do
      it just seem to continually pile up :-)

  2. zablon mukuba November 10, 2010 at 6:12 am #

    its great you are sill in contact with the people you are volunteering with. the best thing to is i think support them through advice, to help them come up with their own solutions

    • Anonymous November 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

      Thank you so much for the kind words. Talking to young adults any where in
      the world can be tough, so it;s heartening to know everyone agrees I’m on
      the right path :)

  3. Manu Stanley November 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    So delighted to read this entry, Shannon! The happiness and sense of achievement you feel when you hear that these kids you have trained and mentored are slowly making progress in reaching towards their goals, is much beyond what words can tell. I take pride having acquainted such a great person as you. Keep going!!

    • Anonymous November 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

      Thank you so much for your kind words and perspective Manu; I appreciate
      your consistently thoughtful comments and support :-)

  4. Audrey November 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    Loved reading this and how you are still connected with the students you worked with on your volunteer programs. Technology is fabulous sometimes, isn’t it? Don’t underestimate the importance of being a caring listener – this is what helps people work through issues and come through on the other side all the better.

    • Anonymous November 9, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

      Technology is pretty fab :) and this is one of the many reasons I love
      Facebook – it’s a time suck but it really has transformed the way we can
      maintain friendships and connections. Thanks for the kind words Audrey and
      for “listening’ to my story here :-)

  5. Amy @ The Q Family November 9, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    Shannon, what an inspiration! I think you have given them the best gift in the world – love & listening. They are so lucky to have met you in their lives.

    • Anonymous November 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

      Thank you so much Amy, I appreciate the kind words and support :)

  6. GlobalButterfly November 8, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    What a beautiful post, it seems as though you are quite the inspiration!!!

    • Anonymous November 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

      Aww, thanks Andi :)

  7. Ayngelina November 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    What a wonderful story, you obviously made such an impression on them.

    • Anonymous November 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

      Thank you Ayngelina :-)

  8. Jeff November 8, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Support and love – best gift in the world, isn’t it?

    You mentioned how you are thankful you shared your time with them…well, I believe they are just as thankful for your time!

    Wow, Shannon, that post is a tear-jerker! It would sway anyone considering volunteering.

    thanks for sharing,

    • Anonymous November 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

      Thank you Jeff…encouraging others to lend there time is actually a big
      goal of mine long term :)

  9. Anonymous November 8, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    Shannon, you are an inspiration. You give so much and these children (or should I say young adults now) are so lucky to have you.

    • Anonymous November 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

      Thank you Deb; it’s looking like I may be back in SEA in the spring…so I’m
      psyched I might get to see them again :)

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