By Aysia Rodriguez
Hands down, I have the most fun in the Boston Cares office—which is saying something when you’re surrounded by a swarm of happy-go-lucky AmeriCorps VISTAs who are doing incredible projects each and every day!
On paper, I have the very serious role of developing, implementing, and enhancing the Boston Cares Youth & Family programs, including: our Teen Advisory Council, generationOn Service Clubs, weeks of service-learning, and youth-friendly calendar projects. My year of service is dedicated to providing opportunities for youth ages 5-17 to become upstanding, civically-engaged members of their community—which doesn’t seem to be the obvious answer as to why I’m wearing a cape, surrounded by felt scraps and glitter. (As a matter of fact, this was my Thursday last week.)
Parents frequently reach out to me looking for opportunities to get their kids involved in service as young as possible, and I love seeing that! The younger a child starts volunteering, the more likely they are to continue serving as an adult. Depending on the needs of the organizations, it can be hard to find a project that can accommodate youth volunteers, and when a project is available to youth, adults tend to fill the spots first.
My predecessor, Ginelle Testa, sought to address these obstacles by building more opportunities for youth through the launch of the Boston Cares’ goCreate program. Since the end of her AmeriCorps VISTA term, I have expanded upon the curriculum with new projects that I design and the youth implement each month.
goCreate projects are 2 hour long sessions dedicated to crafting in-kind donations for local organizations. The program is exclusive to Youth & Family volunteers and I construct projects that are both fun and easy for the youth to reproduce while still being useful to our community partners. In the past, we’ve made tons of amazing projects including Lip Balm Butterflies (lip balm to hand out at homeless shelters), Smile Kits (toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss to be donated for kids in homeless shelters), and Lunch Bags of Love (insulated lunch bags filled with homemade placemats, icepacks, conversation cards, and simple food recipes that aim to create a lively dinner table and make cooking nutritious food for Bostonians easier).
Lip Balm Butterflies
Garden Ready Kits
As a part of my legacy as a Boston Cares VISTA, finalized goCreate project guides are not only stored for future use by Boston Cares but are also sent out to registered generationOn service clubs within our Club Hub. When sharing these resources, Boston Cares gives volunteers yet another flexible solution to volunteering. Service clubs throughout the Greater Boston area have the opportunity to facilitate their own service projects wherever and whenever they are able, not only when they are offered on our calendar. The additional efforts from our service clubs brings the impact of our project to new heights and gives the finished projects the ability to reach organizations outside of the Greater Boston area’s reach.
Understanding all this, it might be a little easier to take me more seriously as a young professional in a glittery, felt cape with ladybug spots. In my field, it’s called research and development. In fact, it’s Step 2 out of 5 in the goCreate process.
For example, our goCreate focused on making Superhero Capes for Horizons for Homeless Children’s Early Education Centers. Let’s take a look at the general planning process for such a project:
Step 1: Find a Project and Organization
Kids love capes! They’re empowering and fun!
Let’s make capes!
What is the maximum number of capes we could make?
What organization serving kids could use 10-20 capes?
Let’s call Horizons for Homeless Children!
Yay, they want capes!
Great, let’s eat chocolate!
Step 2: Research and Development
What ages are the kids who are receiving the capes?
How big should capes be?
Let’s Google the average shirt size of a 5 year old!
How can I make this easy to replicate?
How long will it take to make each cape?
What steps can I take to ensure finished projects are safe, durable, and useful?
Step 3: Step-by-Step Instructions
Would a 5 year old understand this?
Would a 16 year old understand this?
Would a 44 year old understand this?
Do I understand this?
Are these directions insulting in their ease of understand-ability?
Step 4 (My Favorite): Implement the Project
Kids & families work alongside our Volunteer Leader to create the projects! Mom and son tag team! Felipe designs while mom, Magda, crafts the vision.
A family finishing their balloon cape!
Batman cape courtesy of Keara Cronin!
Capes galore! In total, we made 18 capes for Horizons for Homeless Children!
Step 5: Pat on the Back & Thanking the Volunteers
Yay, another successful project completed!
After thanking the wonderful families for all their tremendous endeavors, the end of a goCreate day is usually accompanied by a wonderful sensation of exhaustion. It’s the kind of fatigue that can only be felt when you’ve really put your heart into building a project and watching it sail away to wherever the volunteers take it.
It’s a special feeling to be able to see all the final projects come together because, despite being given the same instructions, materials, and templates, volunteers always find a way to leave their own unique touch on each project. The love and effort that my volunteers put into the projects makes all my hard work behind the scenes worth it and, because of them, I am completely accepting of the fact that I will be covered in glitter for the rest of my days in the Boston Cares office.
goCreate is an initiative to engage youth ages 5-17 and their accompanying family members in meaningful community service. These hands-on portable projects address a community need in the Greater Boston area and are offered by Boston Cares twice a month through the Boston Cares flexible calendar program. Interested in leading goCreate projects? We’re looking for Volunteer Leaders interested in facilitating fun, meaningful crafts like the projects mentioned above! For more information on becoming a Youth & Family Volunteer Leader, please contact Katie Edelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.