“I Let them Know They are Important.” A Mentor’s Story.

Originally from Romania, Olga Ursu is a long-time New York City resident who volunteers with the RSVP MentorCHIP program. MentorCHIP offers site-based mentoring with an academic and asset-building focus to build the academic confidence and social skills of children ages 6–16 whose parents are incarcerated. Through RSVP, Olga meets with children at The Osborne Association before and after their weekly “tele-visits” with an incarcerated parent.

"I talk with the kids, and help them prepare for the Skype visits. Afterwards, I just ask how they’re feeling, and offer encouragement. I let them know they aren’t the only ones in this situation. This program really helps. As they are waiting to see their parents, different children respond in different ways. Some of the children are very energetic, others are quiet. It depends. A child might be a bit sad or tired when they arrive.

They might just want to share something they learned in school, or a story. One little girl likes to cook, so I brought in a cook book for children. The next time I saw her she said, ‘I made recipes. I’m going to experiment!’ She was so happy. The children give you trust. And, they do get better. These little individuals are dealing with so much, it’s good to be able to offer a few moments to play, talk, just decompress. And let them know they are important.

The RSVP liaison with Osborne told me ‘The kids ask about you.’ It’s amazing to know you are appreciated for what you’re doing. I’m a single person; my daughter is out of the house. Volunteering is something enjoyable and meaningful to me. Everybody can contribute in some way in your community."

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