Prior to volunteering as a tutor at the Violence Intervention Program’s Mental Health Activity Center, Van Chienh struggled to make meaningful connections with children.
“I was never really good with kids in the beginning,” Van said.
Then she met Violet a quiet and shy 5-year-old girl who mirrored many of Van’s own tendencies when she and her family first arrived from Vietnam. Over time, Van began to recognize the signs of familiarity and comfort Violet exhibited during sessions of arts and crafts.
“We were able to talk a lot more and I was able to interact with her like a big sister,” Van said. “…[Children] know that they are safe [at VIP].”
Van’s experiences at VIP forced her out of her comfort zone, completely redefining how she perceives and approaches children.
“Honestly, what I learned from the kids here is that they are actually a lot smarter than we think they are,” Van said. “…It’s better to treat them as young adults and if they don’t know something, teach them.”
Only weeks away from graduating with a Psychology degree from Mount St. Mary’s University, Van hopes to channel what she’s learned at VIP and experienced in her own life to empower others to openly discuss issues vital to their psychological and emotional well-being.
“There are a lot more people out there…that went through the same thing they did,” Van said. “It is okay for [someone] to open up if they want to as long as they are comfortable with it.”
If you are interested in volunteering or have questions about VIP’s volunteer programs, please contact Manny Caro at firstname.lastname@example.org.