Family reaches out to families with special needs
Mother & Daughters volunteering their time
Agency: Alianza Latina Aplicando Soluciones (ALAS)
What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My sister Fatima and I grew up in the ALAS child care program and ALAS helped our mom raise and advocate for our brother with special needs. As a family that received services, we felt it was important to give back by volunteering.
Describe the organization where you volunteer and the work they do.
ALAS is a non-profit dedicated to helping families of children and youth with special needs. This agency provides educational workshops, parent support groups, family events, community building activities, and service referrals to more than 500 Milwaukee families.
What do you do when you volunteer, what kind of help do you provide?
My sister and I spend much of our time helping in child care while parents are in workshops. Our family has helped out at special events such as staffing the ALAS resource table at Mexican Fiesta. If the office needs help, we lend a hand with phone calls or filing. Also, as an ALAS intern, I translated agency pamphlets and documents from English to Spanish.
How long have you volunteered there?
Our mom has been volunteering for about 8 years. I started when I was 12. Now, I am 17. When I was 14, I was named ALAS Volunteer of the Year. My sister has been a volunteer for two years.
What surprised you the most about volunteering?
We have learned that if you are passionate about something, it may take a lot of hard work but you will enjoy it. It takes patience to care for children with special needs. You have to show the children love as if they were your little brother or sister.
When you think about your paid jobs, how is a volunteering different or the same?
Volunteering should be something you do because you like it. Even though you don’t get paid, you feel rich knowing that you have helped someone in need. It also has given me the patience and understanding that I use now at my paid job.
What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
We’ve learned that you should always fight for those whose voice is not always heard. The more we stand up for those who cannot, the better their lives will be.
Has it changed your view of this community in any way?
We wish there were more organizations to help children with disabilities and their families. It’s important that parents teach their kids at an early age that it’s not okay to stare or make fun of someone with special needs. Our community now is more accepting but there is still much work to be done to educate people.
Has volunteering helped you, has it had benefits for you?
Volunteering has helped me tremendously. It has opened doors I didn’t even know existed. When I became an intern I figured out what I wanted to become an interpreter. I want to learn more about my culture and help people who can’t express what they’re feeling because of the language barrier.
What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?
Seeing a smile and receiving a hug from a child with special needs. It is something that may appear to be small but in fact is a very big deal. They’ve learned to trust and love you.
Would you recommend volunteering to others?
If so, what would you tell them is the benefit they’d get from volunteering?
Yes. Volunteering is something that is good not only for you but it helps others. It comes out of the goodness of one’s heart.
How would you suggest someone begin if they want to volunteer?
Find what you are passionate about and then find an agency that matches your interests. If you want to learn more about ALAS, visit www.alianzalatinawi.org or call Elsa at 414-643-0022.
The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee is a membership association serving over 500 nonprofit and corporate members and the nonprofit sector at large. The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee promotes the interests and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector through strengthening organizational capacity, expanding volunteerism and encouraging collaborations. Its programs include training and consulting, Volunteer Milwaukee, financial management, and Jobs that Serve. For more information visit www.npcmilwaukee.org.
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