Why I Volunteer at AFFEC

This week, my internship as the blog coordinator for AFFEC will come to a close.  Although I only just discovered AFFEC a few weeks before my internship began,  the past twelve weeks have been several years in the making.

When I was around six years old, a neighborhood boy of about eight or nine began visiting every day after school. He was my sister’s age and frankly, I remember being more annoyed by his constant presence than anything. He was always eager to join in whatever game my best friend from across the street and I were playing. He would come over for snacks, help with homework, swimming, and Jamba Juice outings. I never quite knew why he was always around; it wasn’t as if my sister was best friends with him.  For some reason,  trips to Jamba Juice are what stand out the most. Overall, my memories of him are quite blurry- when I think back,  I see freckles and dark hair, those drives to Jamba Juice, his bicycle on my best friend’s driveway (Was it dark blue?), and maybe, just maybe, my nose remembers the scent of his laundry detergent.

I can’t say the memory of him as a person left a lasting impact on me, because that would require me projecting some dramatic narrative on him. I don’t have enough memories to piece a story together at all.

It’s not what he said or what games we played all those afternoons at my house. What really has stayed with me is why he was there in the first place.

A few years after that time in my childhood (I really couldn’t tell you whether it was months or a year), my mother told me the reason why. When the boy from down the street was eight years old, he came home from school one day and witnessed his father’s suicide in the family garage.  He was one of several children to a mother who was living with mental illness. She struggled to care for the many kids, so the boy sought refuge at our home. Eventually, the children were separated and placed in foster care. Terrified and lonely, the boy called the first person who came to mind when he arrived- my mother.

From there, my mother tried to adopt him, but our in-ground pool would not fly when our home was evaluated. After that, my mother said they lost touch for a while, but she did hear from him, years later.

I have held onto this story ever since. From a young age, I decided adoption would be my only route to parenthood, should I ever seek one. I have carried a longing to help foster care children in some way. I told myself that maybe, in another life, I could pursue social work. But my interests vary far too much to allow me to commit to something so specific, so for a long time, I felt that there wasn’t a way for me to support the cause.  Until it came time to find an internship.

I suddenly saw my chance to finally do something about the story I had tucked away in the back of my mind. I found AFFEC and applied. Through this internship, I have been able to advocate for foster care children and adoption in a way that makes sense for me. I am too young to be a parent and it is not financially feasible for me to donate regularly to foster care causes and adoption funds, but I have been able to help make a difference just by spreading awareness.

No matter who you are or what your circumstances, you can create change in the lives of foster care children. And while the story of my neighbor and my mother’s kindness is what drives me, you don’t need a reason why or a personal connection.  Show up and volunteer in whatever capacity you can, simply because you care.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss