Recently, one of our Emergency Sanctuary volunteers had an experience that really stuck with him. He shared this story with us, and it serves as a reminder that there are so many little moments that make a world of difference to the children staying there, as well as the volunteers who help make the program possible. 

I’ve been volunteering at the Emergency Sanctuary for almost a year. Each time, I’ve been a bit anxious before coming to the Sanctuary; even though I’m a retired pediatrician with years of experience working with children of all ages, it still feels different to do childcare for children I’ve never met. I wonder: Will I connect? Did I respond the best way possible? What is my job? Did I do it well?

But my last shift was magic.

That day, there were 3 children in the Sanctuary: two siblings and another young child. The littlest sister and I immediately hit it off. We started out gently rolling a big rubber ball back and forth which evoked giggles. She had very few words and referred to all adults as “mama”. As the shift progressed to playing outside on the swings and climbing structure, splashing in the water play equipment in the back yard, breaks for snacks, eating lunch, and playing with puzzles, my relationship with this sweet youngster continued nicely. She even grabbed my hand to take me to the play area to put on some dress up clothes and just run around being silly.

As it neared the end of my shift, my young friend started to get increasingly cranky and irritable. She looked tired and I thought she needed a nap. She started crying hard. Her brother picked her up and consoled her a bit, and then one of the staff tried to help. I offered to hold her and she readily accepted the transfer into my arms. We sat in the rocking chair, her head nuzzled on my shoulder. I could feel her relaxing and gradually drifting off to sleep. There is nothing more magic than to have a child fall into a restful sleep resting against one’s chest. At least for me.

I can still close my eyes days later and relive that moment. It was a huge gift to me. Thank you, Amara Sanctuary, for this gift.

We are in need of more volunteers! Will you join us?

Image is a Creative Commons licensed image