"My financial and time limitations are not preventing me from making a difference."
After an unsuccessful search for local volunteer opportunities, Barbara M. Santisteban, 14, of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, is honing her skills with Youth Outreach International, a nonprofit for at-risk youth in San Diego, CA, which she discovered through Volunteer Match, a free online service.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Barbara: I searched for places where I could volunteer locally but found no open spots. So, as a part of the virtual generation, I went to a search engine to search for volunteering opportunities there. I came across Volunteer Match
The first thing that attracted me to Youth Outreach International (YOI) was its name. I got the idea that it was something for the youth, so maybe I’d get to do something that would help the “downfalling” generation (even though I don’t believe it’s in complete decline myself). International, well, hey, maybe this organization would help me get a feel for what I love, international relations.
And so I joined Youth Outreach International as part of its Board of Advisors. I asked the founder and president, Russell Hartsaw, to tell me where I could learn more about YOI. He gave me a link to the YOI website and then I really understood what a great organization this was. My first task as an advisor was to provide ideas on fundraising.
I visited Volunteer Match for a second time and signed up for a second volunteering opportunity with YOI. This time I became a research volunteer for Brittany and Tam, as part of the Research and Development/Projects Department. I helped to do some research for Youth Outreach Day. I researched venues, entertainment for all ages (clowns, games, entertainment facilities, inflatables, sports), food (catering and popcorn, cotton candy, and hot dog machines), youth job fairs, and contacted several bands. For this department, I also designed two awards (Community Service and Helping Hands Volunteering Award) to be considered for usage.
Then, I was contacted by Tammy Pyrtle on behalf of the Legal Services Department. She asked me for help on research, fundraising ideas and exposure. I contacted some magazines and local newspapers to let everyone out there know about YOI. I have already been contacted back by two magazines.
Still, I wanted to do more for this organization. I received an e-mail that Russell Hartsaw sent, titled “Volunteer Opportunities”. I signed up to be his executive assistant. However, he decided to contact the staff to find me another executive position. I was named Executive Vice-President for Counseling Services. I began to create a web site and build the department. I’ve been researching common problems among the youth and have written articles included at my web site.
My latest position in YOI is Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Counseling & Social Services, and Member of the Executive Committee.
I plan to continue doing as much as I can for Youth Outreach International. It makes me feel great that even though I do not have the funds or means (since I am a student) to travel to help people physically around the world, I can do as much as I can volunteering for an organization like YOI. I am very grateful to meet such a dedicated staff, but more importantly a caring group of citizens that voluntarily build and maintain this good-caused organization.
I will continue searching for ways to let people know about YOI by making it a part of the media. I will also finish building the web site; then I will try to include it in search engine directories, and I will spread the word in my local community. I, and several volunteers under the Counseling Services Department, will counsel the youth through the web site and provide links to more professional help. I am also putting forth all my ideas to YOI. I am available for projects that need volunteers and will also continue to volunteer in an organization that helps people with visual conditions.
I am doing all I can to live out my dreams of making a difference in the world. All I can say is that the YOI staff can count on my services from here on out.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Barbara: Youth Outreach International, based in San Diego, CA
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Barbara: This organization is made up of and maintained by volunteers around the world. The goal is to provide education, food, housing and a better lifestyle to the youth on the streets.
What inspired you to get involved?
Barbara: I know that the youth are facing serious problems. If I can do anything to help them succeed, then I will. I’ve had a goal for several years, a dream you could say. Maybe even a passion. I love to learn languages,
I love to know other people and the way they are and understand their points of view and their culture, I love the foreign. I love to help, I love to feel I made a difference to someone. For all those reasons, my dream is to get scholarships and study
International Relations and Languages in the U.S. mainland because it isn’t offered in local colleges. You could say I’m a romantic thinker or an idealistic person; I know that all the world’s problems won’t be solved, and I definitely know that I cannot solve everything. Still,
I believe that every little bit helps, and if I can do anything to make a person’s day better, then why not?
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Barbara: I became involved by searching for a volunteering opportunity in Volunteer Match. I signed up for several positions in Youth Outreach International. Then I was contacted by the organization and given assignments.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Barbara: I don't have the funds or the time (since I am a high school sophomore) to travel around the world to help the youth. The best thing about my position in YOI is that I know I am helping the youth in the best manner I can. My financial and time limitations are not preventing me from making a difference.
What is/was the hardest part?
Barbara: Being a student and teenager, I have to find time to work. But even if it means working late at night, I am glad to help.
What was the biggest surprise?
Barbara: The biggest surprise was being offered an executive position.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Barbara: I have learned how to deal with different problems, such as violence and suicide. I have learned how to prevent many youth problems and have learned the prevalence of such youth disturbances.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Barbara: I would tell them to accept offered volunteering positions. The feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping without expecting anything for yourself is like no other.
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