"Helping others should be a goal for all."
In her spare time, certified nursing assistant Ernestine Volcy, 35, of Philadelphia, PA, writes and produces plays performed by youth living in shelters and transitional housing.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Ernestine: Some of the youth I work with are living in shelters and transitional housing. Having experienced that myself, I write about it. The youth and I perform in plays that I write about things we have encountered. The age ranges from 3 to 22. This experience helps them and others to see that we can overcome and people are inspired by what they see. We all benefit from knowing that lives are being changed because of the plays that I write and direct. It's not easy, but the end result is worth it. We perform in different facilities in the city of Philadelphia. This is my way of giving back to our youth and helping them see that your circumstance does not have to determine you. They have the power to fight back. I cast the parts based on what the person may be going through at that time to help them see the situation for what it is and how they can be delivered from it.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Ernestine: We are not an organization; however, Travelers Aid of Philadelphia sponsors some of our events. We call ourselves Spirit Filled Creations, Philadelphia, PA.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Ernestine: Not only do the youth benefit but our audience benefits also. Any one who has seen a performance is inspired by it. We now have adults who want to get involved with supporting and performing.
What inspired you to get involved?
Ernestine: I have experienced many things in my life and I thank God for delivering me through those rough times. I realized last year that I need to share my story with others so they could overcome or even prevent some bad decisions from being made. I was skeptical about sharing my story, but I knew it had to be done to help someone else.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Ernestine: I wrote my first play in December 2003. I have also worked with children off and on through the years. We performed my first play, "I Got a Story to Tell" in March 2004. Now we are performing my third and fourth plays.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Ernestine: I enjoy working with people and helping them see that what you see in front is not always the way it is. My four children are in the plays as well, and it has helped them to grow. Sometimes children think they are the only ones going through something until they share. That's when a light bulb shines in their head.
What is/was the hardest part?
Ernestine: The hardest part is keeping them focused and not forgetting the script. We do laugh a lot. Staying in character is hard sometimes, but we enjoy laughing at one another.
What was the biggest surprise?
Ernestine: The biggest surprise was that I didn't realize how much of an impact I have had on the cast. They tell me how they are thankful for me. One of my cast members was giving me a very hard time, and it was touch and go at one point. I wasn't sure if he would perform. I almost replaced him, but I knew in my heart to be patient. Sure enough, he attended the last practice and said how he appreciated me not giving up on him. He also thanked me. That was such a touching moment. I realized then that all they need is someone who will give them a chance to soar.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Ernestine: I learned to have more patience with them and that being a loving, caring person is so important. I learned to be more sensitive to their needs and doing that helps them with relationships. Giving of myself is important to young people. They tell how they appreciate me, and I do the same.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Ernestine: It is the best thing in the world. Helping others should be a goal for all. Everyone needs someone. When you can start something and see it through and not give up, the results are overwhelming.
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