By having casual conversations with young kids, volunteers for SIS – which used to be an acronym for Sisters in Service – aim to encourage children in The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence to reflect on various themes such as self-esteem and gender roles every Wednesday.
Haley Avery ’16, the Student Coordinator for the program, said in an interview with The Phillipian, “SIS is an opportunity for a volunteer and a child to connect one-on-one even for ten or 15 minutes at the end of a long day… It’s about forming connections and just talking to the [kids] about their day.”
During the program, volunteers engage the kids in fun activities such as creating bird feeders with fruit loops and pipe cleaners, making snow paint with shaving cream and glue and building towers out of toothpicks, cards and tape.
When it first launched, SIS was a program that focused on teaching and empowering young girls, but Avery decided to open it up to children in all genders after she became the Student Coordinator for the program in the fall of 2014.
“I wanted to take [SIS] slightly in a different direction… I decided to expand it to both boys and girls because it would become more of an after-school program and with less of that one-on-one mentorship… I thought it might be more effective if we opened it up… We just wanted to make sure that both male volunteers and male kids felt very welcome coming to our program,” said Avery.
Avery feels that the mentorship program has the potential to make a true difference in the lives of both the participant kids and volunteers.
“One of the big things I’ve learned is the power of small interactions and small moments on both the volunteers’ day and the kids’ day,” said Avery. “It can feel like a very casual program because kids are running in and out – but at the end of the day, you see kids become really attached to a volunteer and really look forward to them coming back.”
In addition, Avery believes that an important aspect of the program is encouraging innovation and creativity.
“I think the best part of the program is seeing kids use this raw material and just have a lot of fun with it being incredibly creative about it,” said Avery.
Many volunteers feel that SIS allows them to take a break from their daily routines and enjoy interacting with new people.
Mekedas Belayneh ’18, a volunteer at SIS, said, “During the week, it’s really stressful at school, and being able to leave campus and talk to a lot of people much younger than you while doing fun activities is a great way for me to de-stress, and it’s a great way to learn about new people.”
Tiffany Chang ’19, another volunteer of the program, said, “I thought [SIS] is a really nice way to give back to the community in a way that I can have fun and learn things myself. I think there are a lot of things about having fun that we remember as children that we lose as we grow older, and I think accessing that side of myself was also important for me.”
Without a strict weekly roster of kids, the program is open to all members of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. Looking forward to the rest of the year, Avery hopes to incorporate more games and activities into the program for more structured time with the kids.
Editor’s Note: Haley Avery was the Chief Financial Officer for The Phillipian, vol. CXXXVIII.