By: PaKou Lee, Red Cross PR/Social Media Volunteer
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Youth volunteering reinforces a feeling of involvement, belonging and acceptance in their community. Youth volunteers also have a tendency to do better in school and have a lesser chance by 50% of engaging in risky and unhealthy behaviors by volunteering once a week. They gain new life skills, important work ethics, and meet different types of people.
Volunteering is important for me because I enjoy the feeling of giving back to the community. I get to meet great people with amazing backgrounds and learn so much from them. I also come from a huge Hmong family and as an aunt to more than 28 nieces and nephews I do my best to be a great role model for them. I have accomplished the typical expectations: go to school, get good grades, graduate college, and not be married by the age of 18. Although I don’t get to see many of my nieces and nephews, I still want to show them that there are better things in life than just video games and having good grades.
So when the Packer 5K was coming up on July 27th, I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to bring two of my nieces, Nevaeh, 10 and Cienna, 6 along. The night before the race I explained to them that we were going to pass out water and Gatorade to the runners. The next morning, Cienna was ready by 9a.m. and eager to leave. I was impressed with her enthusiasm but we didn’t have to leave the house until 5p.m.
When we were setting up the Gatorade station with other Red Cross volunteers, Cienna asked me, “Auntie PaKou, what does volunteer mean?” I was surprised by her question because I thought I had explained to her what we were doing. Then I realized I only told her what we were doing, not the meaning of the word and why we were doing it. I answered her, “Volunteering is about helping people for free and not asking for something back like what we are doing right now. We are going to pass out the Gatorade to the runners.” It was great to see Nevaeh and Cienna excited for the runners. We worked great as a team.
At the end, Nevaeh and I had a friendly “argument” about who passed out more Gatorade. To this day, she still thinks she passed out more than me. The only things that mattered to me were they both had fun, they gave back to the community, and wanted to come back next year to volunteer again.
American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities for youth from starting a Red Cross club at school to activity guides to spread the Red Cross mission. Click here for more information.