When I completed my child life internship I knew that it might take some time for me to find a child life position. My husband and I took turns pursuing our graduate education and so my job search was limited to Houston and nearby communities if we wanted to be able to live in the same city. I started searching for ways to continue learning about psychosocial care and build on the skills I gained during internship. I learned about Bo’s Place, Houston’s non-profit grief support center, from another child life specialist. I decided to train as a volunteer and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional journey.
What started out as an attempt to deepen my understanding of grief and bereavement became so much more. I’ve volunteered for years now and plan on continuing for as long as I can and they will have me. I’ve facilitated in peer support groups for children from preschool age through teens. I’ve been a camp counselor at their weekend family Camp Healing Hearts. I’ve gained so much from my time at Bo’s Place: friendships and professional connections with an amazing group of volunteer facilitators, training in grief and trauma, professional development workshops, and the opportunity to work with kids in an environment that is truly attuned to their needs. Bo’s Place has been a warm and consistent space for me as I’ve navigated different jobs and new skills. It has become part of my sense of community and professional identity.
Bo’s Place follows a peer support group model for grief and bereavement. The core of their programming focuses on children and families, but they also have groups for adults and pregnancy loss. Services are free for participants and there is no “timeline” for their participation. Regardless of the timing of the death, if the family is grieving and needs support, Bo’s Place will either offer them a space or help direct them to another community resource that might meet their needs. As a child life specialist, it warms my heart to volunteer in a space that has a playroom, art room, music room, and “tornado” room (indoor space for active group games). They recognize the need for children to play out their feelings in a safe space and make it a reality.
So, if you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, check out Bo’s Place or the grief support center in your community. People often ask if it is sad to work with grieving children. Honestly, while it can occasionally be sad or emotionally intense, there is also a ton of laughter and a lot of playfulness. Bo’s Place is a hopeful space; families see that they are not alone, get to share memories and feelings, and learn to cope.
If you are interested in applying to become a volunteer facilitator, please read more about it here.
Photo Credit: Luke Saagi via Flickr