The National Runaway Safeline is thrilled to announce Jackie Barron as the January 2024 volunteer of the month. Jackie’s path to volunteering with NRS was paved with empathy and a desire to make a positive impact. Growing up in a challenging family environment, Jackie often found herself in the “fixer” role (having a keen sense of responsibility, often prioritizing the needs of other before her own), even at a young age. This understanding of adversity and resilience led her to seek out opportunities to give back, ultimately leading her to NRS.
July 2022 Volunteer of the Month
Ayesha Ahmad is currently pursuing her PYSD in clinical Psychology at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. This is a recent development as when we first met her, she was finishing up undergrad at Loyola and was looking for some volunteer work to help her with her degree in Psychology. Ayesha loves volunteering with NRS because it helps her develop her empathetic skills that she will use in her future career. She’s strives to help youth in crisis by helping them realize their worth by validating their experiences.
NRS: What made you decide to volunteer with NRS?
Ayesha: It was near when COVID hit. I really wanted to give back to this population because I actually called NRS when I was a teenager, and it really helped me. It all came back to me one day in class when we talked about at-risk youth in school. I realized I wanted to help teens and to make them understand that some crisis-liners like myself have used different resources when they didn’t have family support.
Also, I saw that NRS was really close to my apartment in Chicago, and I thought if we ever go back to the office, I’d be close by! But now I moved to Florida for school and I’m so happy I can continue remotely!
NRS: What keeps you coming back to volunteer week after week?
Ayesha: The most important thing for me that is that I’m validating and hearing youth. Especially coupled with homelessness, COVID, and mental health in general, it’s important to be there for people. They feel so much gratitude just to be heard. I’m learning clinical skills for my own career, but I didn’t realize how significant an impact I can make in someone’s life just by hearing them out and saying that I believe them. It’s really impactful to hear that from a stranger.
NRS: Tell us something you’ve learned from your experiences volunteering with us?
Ayesha: Empathy skills. When you hear stories and they’re real in front of you, you’re like “Wow, I didn’t know that someone could experience that and feel that like they did,” does that make sense? It is hard to know what people feel during an experience just by hearing the story on the surface level. They really paint a bigger picture of their world for you. The details are so different from the story; every experience is different.
NRS: Give us a Fun Fact about yourself that you don’t think someone would be able to guess just by meeting you.
Ayesha: Since I was 16, I’ve been a hairdresser. I’ve done a lot of movie service stuff, worked with people who had cancer, did free-haircuts for homeless etc. I’ve also done people’s hair for weddings for 11 years now. My mom is also a hairdresser.
I didn’t actually think I was going to go to college. It was my middle school guidance counselor who inspired me and made me consider going to cosmetology school. I was extremely fortunate to have him in my life because it allowed me to better understand young teenagers on the crisis hotline who don’t have a parent to turn to for support. My guidance counselor has been able to mentor me and guide me in making better selections for myself. It took me really far and I am fortunate to be in school today.
NRS: What would you say to someone who was thinking of volunteering with NRS?
Ayesha: Def give it a try. NRS is flexible, open-minded, willing to help you. You’re not alone. The commitment, 2-4 hours, is doable. You never know how much an impact you can make on someone.
To be that one person that can hear a troubled youth out is so so important. Go for it!
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As we step into a new year, January holds more than the promise of resolutions. It’s a clarion call to confront a pervasive crisis: Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This presidentially designated annual awareness campaign, led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), unites youth-facing service providers and communities through education about human trafficking and the roles we all play in protecting vulnerable youth. The 2024 theme, “Activate Connections to Prevent Human Trafficking,” is a stark reminder: This fight isn’t for the solitary hero. It’s a collective struggle, demanding connections that safeguard and uplift those at risk or already ensnared in human trafficking’s grip.
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It’s not often that a nonprofit organization is lucky enough to have long-term volunteers. Fortunately, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has been working with John P., our December 2023 Volunteer of the Month, for more than 12 years! John finds that volunteering provides a “meaningful connection with the human experience.” He recognizes something special in helping those in need and wonders why more people aren’t drawn to the fulfilling world of volunteering.
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Sam began on her journey with the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) at 16, much younger than the average age of volunteers. She learned about NRS’s volunteer program through her high school’s list of after-school activities. This led her to sign-up for what she called an eye-opening 40-hour training that was so impactful that she still uses the training material to help guide her through difficult chats. Now, as a college student at Washington University in St. Louis, Sam continues to volunteer by talking to young people and concerned adults who reach out through NRS’s chat service.