Currently, I’m volunteering for a large non-profit organization called El Nido Family Centers. El Nido, meaning “the nest” in Spanish, provides intervention programs for at-risk youth including juvenile delinquents, youth gang members, teen parents, and abused children to help them get on track to a better life. My neighbor serves in the Board of Directors for El Nido and had shared with me the great work that they’re doing to help disadvantaged youth. I had been looking to volunteer somewhere that shared the same compassion and desire to help others excel which El Nido encompassed completely. My passion to help others derives from the days I used to volunteer my time as a Spanish/English translator in Mexico as a preteen. For two summers I lived in an orphanage in Mexico where I would be the on-site translator for English-speaking missionary teams that would circulate in and out throughout the summer. I witnessed true poverty and need among the orphans and the surrounding community. In one of the community reach-outs with a missionary team, we visited an extremely impoverished Indian reservation where they lived in newspaper and cardboard huts. Their living conditions made my living situation in a room at an Inn look like royalty living. Since my days in living in Mexico, I learned that I was very fortunate to have an easy living with a roof over my head, food on the table, loving parents, and live in a safe community. With this in mind, I wanted to reach out and help those in my community that were born into or found themselves in disadvantaged situations that made life harder. On top of having the passion to help others, I know first-hand how it is to learn the ropes of the educational system without help and be your own support system. Through El Nido, I’m able to join their efforts in empowering their young women clients who had teen pregnancies and give them the support I wish I had when attaining my educational goals. I was assigned to mentor an intelligent college student who had her child as a teen and was guided by El Nido since she was pregnant. We immediately connected because we shared the same challenges of our demanding science majors and having to work while studying. What I didn't have was a baby to raise on top of studying and working. It’s inspiring to see how powerful caring hearts and helping hands are in changing the direction of someone’s life for the better even when it does not seem plausible as in the case of my mentee. These teenagers and young adults just need someone to believe in them and give them direction, and through organizations like El Nido and caring volunteers like myself, I've seen how confident, strong, and motivated at-risk youth come out to be when that is provided. Seeing these positive transformations and empowered individuals gives me the drive to continue to reach out to those in need and help take them out of their difficult situation. Little by little, we can make this world a better place for people.
Vanessa volunteering in Honduras