Now, more than ever, love is needed in our communities. Working as an advocate and volunteering at Covenant House, I have the opportunity to meet amazing individuals and hear their stories. I get to hear youth in foster care share their personal stories of not only the challenges they face, but also how they have been able to overcome them and their desire to be advocates for others. Recently, I watched a foster youth shed tears and share how she contemplated suicide because of her struggles, but chose to live to advocate for others. There have been times I myself have shed tears inside, or have gone home to a glass of wine because I’ve felt as if I have not done enough. However, on the flip side I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been inspired by our youth. They are absolutely remarkable
Studies show less than 3% of foster youth will graduate from college and 1 in 5 will become homeless after age 18. It is estimated that 21 million women, children, and men are victims of trafficking and forced labor; of which 5.5 million are children. And yes, trafficking happens here in the United States and has been reported in all 50 states. Homeless youth are at high risk of human trafficking. These statistics should stir something inside you. Anger, frustration...maybe. But more importantly, it should stir the need to help and volunteer your time out of love.
When people ask me “why Covenant House?”, it’s always tough for me to answer. To be honest, I rarely know what to answer but what I do know is that I love each and every one of these young women and their children. I love spending quality time with them, learning about them, sharing stories, and just chatting. What I love most are the countless hugs I get (especially from the babies!). However, if I’m honest, there are days I just want to go home after work. It happens…. But, I find that once I arrive at Covenant House, I’m ALWAYS happy I spent time with them. I leave inspired and grateful. You’ll notice I no longer describe it as an outreach because they mean so much more to me. It’s about spending quality time with, building relationship and investing into youth that will become leaders and world changers one day.
It’s easy to throw money at the problem. I can easily donate and call it day but where is the added value in that? Yes money is needed, but just imagine the feeling of maybe purchasing shoes and gifting it yourself? Putting a face to it all and getting to know who the shoes will be going to makes a big difference. I understand that at times, it may be all we can do and that’s fine. But, if you can take that extra step, do it! A few months ago I read the book A Call To Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve on Mother Teresa and it quotes one of her favorite sayings “we have to save souls and we must do it happily”. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to sit with our youth, hear their stories, and just care for their soul. To be able to pray with them, empower them, and encourage them to keep going. This is what love is. Being generous isn’t always about money but about love and time, as well.
Many times we want to help and just don’t know where to start. If that’s you, here are 5 tips on how to get started:
Find your passion. Are you passionate about children, hunger, education, social justice, seniors?
Research, research, research! Find out what’s happening and yes, even look through policies. Research different organizations that are doing work in the area you are passionate about.
Figure out your purpose. Let’s face it, you can’t do everything. If you are passionate about children what is your purpose? Are you called to be a mentor? Are you called to advocate? Are you called to work with foster youth?
Figure out how much time you can devote to your cause. Is it an hour a week? Or an hour a month? You want to be able to commit without being drained. Yes everyone is busy, but trust me you can make time!
Do not, I repeat DO NOT compare yourself to others. You will overwhelm yourself. Whatever you decide to do, whatever your purpose is, you will make a difference trust me. No matter how small you think it is. Stay focused.
So go ahead and be generous with your love within your community. No matter what anyone says your love matters and you can truly make a difference.
-Fabienne Pierre, Co-Leader of Covenant House partnership with Liberty City