My name is Julia Burnell and I am a first year public health major. This semester, I’m volunteering at an organization called FAIR Girls. FAIR Girls is a non-profit that works with girls worldwide to prevent exploitation by educating and empowering them, as well as by helping victims get back on their feet. One service that FAIR Girls offers is a home, called the Vida Home, for girls who are in between safe places to live and thrive. Homeless women are especially susceptible to exploitation, so by providing them with a safe place to live while transitioning, FAIR Girls is meeting an essential need for these women.
I volunteer at the Vida Home and it is an incredibly rewarding experience. My service allows me to see firsthand the progress that clients are making as they work to reach their goals. Prior to beginning this work, I had not had any experience working with trauma victims and didn’t really have any idea of what that would be like. I feel like it’s easy to oversimplify this kind of situation, to break it into the “before” and “after” of an unsafe situation. Escaping an abuser doesn’t mean that someone is immediately okay, and that is okay. That’s why I think the services that FAIR Girls offers are so important. They help girls work through their “after” so they are better equipped to have the kind of life they want and deserve.
As in any endeavor, I have high points and low points as a volunteer. While I enjoy that I have a decent amount of responsibility in my position, it can be stressful because I worry about doing things wrong or handling situations poorly. Also, it can be emotionally challenging at times because many of the clients are close in age to me. However, I do feel like my age sometimes makes clients feel more comfortable talking to me. It definitively gives me a sense of my privilege when I think about how different my childhood and life has been from theirs, all due to factors outside of either of our control. At the end of the day, it is so inspiring to see the clients reach their goals, whether that is something tangible like getting a job, or more emotional, like coming to terms with a past event. These girls have overcome so much and it’s beautiful to watch them continue to strive to reach more of their goals.
Every day is different, but each time I volunteer I feel like I’ve helped someone. This hasn’t been the case with all my volunteer experiences. While I understand that volunteering is not about me but instead is about giving an organization what it needs, it is nice to enjoy what I do. By getting to interact with the clients on a personal level, I’ve gained knowledge that I simply would not have if I were working in a more administrative role. I’ve attached this credit to my Issues in Women’s Health class and it has enhanced my learning because human trafficking and abuse are not subjects we have covered, so this project has allowed me to get a broader sense of these issues than I otherwise would have.