Elizabeth Clark says that in light of the Me Too movement, supporting young women by giving them platforms to heal has become an inspiration for her volunteerism with vulnerable girls.
As a mentor volunteer for Vista Maria, an organization that provides healing and hope to women and children who have suffered the effects of abuse, neglect and trauma, the 41-year-old Dearborn Heights, Michigan resident spends meaningful time fostering restorative relationships with teenage girls. By connecting with these girls as a mentor, Elizabeth is helping them to understand their worth, heal and build skills for future success.
What inspires you to volunteer?
My parents taught me about morality, being nice, kind and trying to be helpful. I’ve always wanted to volunteer. I asked myself, what can I do to put some good back into the world?
Describe your role with Vista Maria.
I’ve mentored two teens thus far with Vista Maria. In addition, I help to coordinate donation drives for our residential youth who are in treatment, and help out with events. As a mentor, I’ll spend an hour just talking to the girl, or we do activities. Basically, we do fun stuff to keep their minds off the trauma they’ve been through. We paint nails, make vision boards, craft, or listen to some music I’ve never heard of that she likes (laughs).
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
I mentored my first mentee for a year. It gets real heavy, and we had this really deep bond, I considered her to be like another niece of mine. When she was leaving our program, she hugged me and said, ‘Liz, you’ve made this so much more bearable for me and I couldn’t have done this without your support.’ Of course there were tears. We’re still in touch even though she’s out of the program and thriving now.
How has this Me Too world changed the environment for vulnerable girls like the ones you mentor?
I’m worried and optimistic for these girls. Me too has shown these girls that it’s ok to come forward. Vista Maria helps the girls a lot, there are lots of great programs for them.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
Volunteering is very humbling and it makes me feel good. Serving these girls means the world to me, and I’ve been trying to get other friends to mentor as well.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I’ve learned to be a lot more patient. I’ve always been open-minded and forgiving, and these girls have taught me that they just need support and help from us. Understanding that these girls don’t enjoy the same freedoms I do, it’s humbling, and it’s taught me the importance of sharing my time with others.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Even if you have a busy life or work full-time, there is time to volunteer. There are so many different people, places, and nonprofits that need the help.
How can readers help?
Please visit the Vista Maria website for more information about how you can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Elizabeth Clark? Find local volunteer opportunities.