Voices That Care
Say Hello to ... Stephanie
Every single person in Care2Run’s ecosystem is essential, and we’ve grown so much in three years thanks to all the different individuals who’ve played a part in getting us to where we are.
It is for this reason that we aim to hand this section over to our people – our participants, coaches, volunteers, parents, friends and loved ones – so they can tell you what Care2Run means to them.
This week we say hello to ….. Stephanie Nair, a volunteer mentor who loved working and interacting with the young participants of the 2019 Care2Run Junior Leaders Programme.
SOME folks find interacting with children and youths a challenge. And then there are others, like volunteer mentor Stephanie, who’re not only comfortable around young persons, but revel in their company.
“I have only one child – my daughter’s 21 now, so I’m kinda no more in that zone where I interact with kids a lot. But I used to teach Sunday School and tutor at orphanages … and I guess something I’ve always loved about kids is that they’re very straightforward and honest. That is true especially for differently-abled kids,” says Stephanie, a senior manager at a telecommunications company.
She continues: “I’m always surrounded by adults. And you know, sometimes you can get frustrated with all the rubbish you get. But there’s no hidden agenda with kids. And the interactions are very honest. That’s something I really love.”
In Stephanie’s case, her natural and relaxed interactions with youths during the Junior Leaders Programme saw a number of them, and her mentee especially, gravitate towards her.
Here’s Stephanie with the rest of her Care2Run story …
Hi Stephanie. Could you share with us what made you want to volunteer with Care2Run?
Hello there! I’d volunteered a little when I was in college – you know, tutoring kids in orphanages and things like that – but I was never heavily involved in volunteer work. I guess because I didn’t really have friends or family in my circle that did volunteer work, there was always this question of: I want to, but how do I start? But when Darshini signed up and forwarded the information about the Junior Leaders Programme to me, I thought it was the perfect opportunity. To me, it was a chance to volunteer and also learn about differently-abled young persons. I have friends who have kids with autism but I didn’t really understand it, so Care2Run presented me with an opportunity to change that. Also, I work with Darshini, and she’s a friend and someone I trust, so that made it easier to say, yes.
Did Darshini know you were looking for an opportunity to give back?
I don’t think she knew, but she did forward the information to me, and it turned out that I was. On my part, I too forwarded Care2Run’s call for volunteers to other friends, and one of them – Sanny, whom I’ve known since college – became a mentor too.
Were there any moments during the JLP when you, as a mentor, felt like you were operating outside your comfort zone?
Not really out of my comfort zone, but what I sometimes did feel was a loss of control. For the better part of my career, I’ve been in charge of operations and managing teams of like 80-100 people at a time. I’m always thinking, planning and strategising. So what would sometimes happen during the JLP sessions, for example, would be that I’d catch myself thinking, “Why are we focussing on this?” or “That can be done better”. But I’d always end up reminding myself: “You don’t know this field. You’re no expert. Calm down and try and learn”. And that helped.
When I worked with the kids though and we had to get on with the activities, I didn’t think about anything else. I enjoyed that a lot. Of course, there was some concern whether I was doing things properly, because the main focus is the kids, and you don’t want to do something wrong.
So you enjoyed the overall experience of mentoring and being involved in the programme?
I did. It certainly opened my eyes to the challenges youths with differences face, why they behave in the way they do, and how we can connect with them. I’m still no expert, but I think I’ve learnt a bit now to know when I see a kid having a meltdown in a restaurant or on board a flight why they’re behaving like that. And I’ve shared this knowledge with people like my mum and siblings.
What was working with your mentee like?
It was good. Due to her challenges, she sometimes had trouble concentrating or remembering things, but apart from that, I found that she tries and works really hard. Sometimes, with certain activities we did, she did want to give up. But all she needed was a little encouragement and when she got that, she rallied to complete the tasks. I could see that there were times when she was tired but especially towards the end of the programme when the junior coaches were paired with mentees, you could see how she’d make the extra effort to engage her mentee. She’s an amazing young woman.
That’s awesome, Stephanie! What are your aspirations for Care2Run?
I hope everyone involved keeps at it because Care2Run can only improve and the kids will surely benefit as a result. Also, I think it’s hard to have a single programme that covers and sees to the needs of every single child, so I hope that the programmes either get expanded or narrowed in focus so that more children get the help and guidance they require. The programmes have to evolve and hopefully, when they evolve they can be improved in ways that target every single person. Of course, doing something like that would require lots more volunteers and more complex structures. But you know, I think we can get there eventually.