In recent years, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has expanded our technical capabilities to allow passionate individuals across the nation the opportunity to volunteer with NRS. As a national organization, aim to involve people in our work nationwide; however, we will always have a soft spot for volunteers who share our home of Chicago, Illinois!
Meet the October Volunteer of the Month: Sana, a Chicago-native currently in her second year at Harvard University. Sana is pursuing degrees in Religion and Neuroscience, and hopes to become a cochlear implant surgeon. This dream stems from a 3-year period during Sana’s childhood when she was deaf. Like many of our volunteers, Sana draws from personal experiences to fuel her desire to help others.
Sana is no stranger to volunteering. In fact, during middle school, Sana founded Mission Blue Aqua, a fundraiser aimed at providing people in Haiti a greater chance of accessing clean water. Even at a young age, Sana was able to understand the dynamics of privilege, recognizing it felt wrong to drink from a filtered water source while other young people had access only to dirty water. Her efforts raised more than $5,000 for the purchase of Biosand filters, which help prevent diseases like Cholera.
In addition to serving in the NRS Crisis Center, Sana volunteers at Massachusetts General Hospital where she will soon become a hospice volunteer. She speaks French (thanks to her time in Haiti), and is currently taking courses to better understand deafness.
How does Sana balance it all? “That’s the million dollar question,” Sana shared. “NRS makes me feel validated and like I’m truly living life! When I’m exhausted, NRS makes me less exhausted.” She said that sometimes chatters write messages such as, “You’ve saved my life,” and added, “That’s what it all really comes down to for me. Wow, I was able to use my words to help someone.”
Sana was open about how she leverages past experiences to put herself in the shoes of young people reaching out to NRS in their time of need. “I’m 19 now, and most of the youth I talk to are in their early teens, and I’m definitely able to put myself back into that time period of my life.” This was particularly helpful to one chatter, who Sana remembers as being nervous about their queerness. “I was able to say the things I wish were said to me in that situation.” Her willingness to share a relatable experience and provide validation resulted in a breakthrough for the youth and brought them to tears.
For Sana, a big part of balancing her altruistic talents is making sure she cares for herself. “I realize that you can’t pour from an empty cup! I do have self-care Fridays. On Friday at 8 PM I go out with my friend or make sure I do something for myself.” Fortunately, for Sana, October is one of her favorite times of year – Spooky Season! While she considers herself an “apple picking kind of girl,” she puts extra emphasis on Halloween activities. This year, Sana plans to transform into Medusa to celebrate!
It is important to Sana to know when to disconnect from social media, and she wishes young people practiced this more often. “Social media has made young people more aware than ever before. I had a chatter who shared that they didn’t even realize that what they were experience at home was not OK until I heard someone talking about it on TikTok!” She often hears people talk negatively about the impact of social media, but also sees it as a bridge to the lived experiences and real issues that young people face.
Sana wants everyone to take away from this interview: “Knowing that one person in this world can say that at their lowest moment that they feel even slightly better is the greatest thing we can do as humans. If you are thinking about joining NRS, you will feel such gratification through volunteering. It won’t be easy, but it will make you feel like, ‘Wow, this is what it means to exist in community with other people’.”
Community is, after all, the foundation of society.