Tell us a fun fact about yourself. A part of me has always been attracted by politics and I hope to run for office one day! Mostly, so I can help people, but also because “Governor Hanohano” has a nice ring to it. Or “Senator Hanohano.” Heck, even “President Hanohano.”
If that’s not fun enough for you, another fun fact is that I used to be a pageant king in Michigan and have since been involved with the “Miss Michigan” circuit as a “Miss Sunset Coast” and “Miss Southwest Michigan” judge.
How did you first get involved with NRS? After the election, I knew that America would need a little bit of extra positivity in the world and I wanted to contribute to that. I remember feeling helpless and instead of worrying about what was to come, I wanted to put that energy into something that helps people who often feel helpless; in my mind is what NRS is all about. I started researching youth-based organizations and NRS was one of the only organizations I found that didn’t base their level of help or resources on religion, race, or gender. One year later, I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
Why do you choose to keep coming back to work as a youth volunteer?
Every shift, I talk to people that have gone through more tough times before they hit 16 than I have in 25 years. I come back because I’ve never needed something like NRS, but so many do; realizing that privilege makes me want to be the person that answers the phone, an email, or a chat. Because if we aren’t there to answer the phone, who will?
What have you gained from your experience? My experience at NRS has taught me more about communication than my entire educational career. I never noticed how little I actually listened or how much I interjected my own situations or emotions into a conversation. After training and being the ear to our callers, I have learned humility and how to remove myself from the equation. I love that we don’t have a face or a name. That there is no glory and no recognition because I’ve brought that into other facets of my life and have become a better friend because of it.
Can you tell us about a call that stuck with you? I’ll never forget one of the first times I was in chat (live chat service). I had been having a conversation with a youth that had taken up self-harming as her primary coping method for the difficult times she was having with her parents. The conversation was filled with supportive statements and supplying resources and options. After connecting her with TWLOHA’s crisis text line, the youth sent me this chat before ending the conversation: “Thank you so much for talking to me. It’s crazy how someone cares more about me than anyone I know and I haven’t even met you. I’m so thankful to you. Have a good night.” I remember thinking “That’s why you volunteer, Ruben.” Not for the recognition, but for being there for whomever is reaching out in the way that they need it.
Any last thoughts? Dear fellow volunteers, THANK YOU. Thank you for coming back. Thank you for doing good. Thank you for being there for people who need options and help. Keep it up. Keep making a difference. Keep answering those phones. We’ll never know our impact on someone’s life, but we can know that we’ve done what we could in that one conversation, and that is so powerful.