In every group, one can always find someone that shines bright. When it comes to our Children Within Our Borders (CWOB) volunteers, we found that shine in Olivia Batshon.
Olivia began volunteering with CBOB after hearing about the program through an involvement fair at the University of Central Florida, where she is currently studying Elementary Education. At the fair, she obtained a sticker which she promptly put on her wall as a way to remind herself to get involved. Taking this initiative, Olivia searched on Facebook and once finding the nearest CWOB event, she signed up to volunteer and has been returning since.
CWOB has been so influential in Olivia's life because she is always in search of new ways to impact her community. Our programs allow her to interact with local children in different ways and really make a change in their lives. By doing this, she hopes to be better prepared to be a great educator.
While having focused on the Children Within Our Borders program, Olivia definitely has plans to one day attend a Bound for Peace service trip. With the desire to be a greater asset, she is improving her Spanish and hopes to be able to communicate effectively with the children we work with in South America.
Olivia has given us a description of what it’s like to be a CWOB volunteer and we couldn’t agree with it more.
"Volunteering with Children Within Our Borders is the most rewarding experience I have ever encountered. Yes, sometimes it's hectic, yes, things never go as planned, and yes, sometimes the children are a lot to handle. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. All that matters is the impact that we, as a collective group, are able to make on each and every child living in that hotel. The children living in this hotel have very monotonous routines. There is not a playground for them to run around on. There is no park around the corner. There is no basketball court for them to shoot hoops with their friends on. They are confined to their hotel rooms and the parking lot that lies a few feet from their doors. This, to us as college students, is not a life we are able to imagine. We get up everyday in our dorm rooms or apartments, with the nerve to complain about our "uncomfy" beds. These kids live a life that is unimaginable to any person that has never lived through it. This volunteer experience for the past six months has given me a glimpse into a cruel world that I never opened my eyes up to see before. We all hear about homeless children and families. We all hear about the statistics and the millions of kids who go hungry every year, but homeless children do not go panhandle on the streets of the city. They are tucked away in hotel rooms, cardboard boxes on the streets, or hiding in plain sight in their classrooms. It is completely impossible for any of us to understand this experience, and without understanding, it is hard for us to find a way to help. Go out and ask anybody on the streets "Do you want kids to be homeless?" The answer would be hell no. But who actually has the perspective on this issue to either A. Decide to help with the problem or B. Actually think about this problem for more than 30 seconds after the question is asked? We all want to live in a perfect world with great education and happy people, but how is this possible if we can't even begin to understand all that is wrong with the world? This organization has given me my first step, my first glimpse into this part of the world, that I never took the time to understand before. This organization has given me the opportunity to work and talk with children, and look into their eyes and understand their pain. This organization has given me the opportunity to begin to be a solution to this problem. It has allowed me to be creative and not only think of new ways to integrate knowledge into activities, but to execute them. My ideas are able to be brought to life, impacting each child in their own distinct ways. This organization has given me the tools to better understand the problem of homelessness in education and our at-risk youth, and I am now able to take action, one child at a time. Without Children Within Our Borders, I would still be left blind, sitting in my dorm room, aimlessly complaining about how the world should be a better place. You may criticize me and say, "Olivia, this is just one hotel. There are only so many children here, and your monthly appearance will soon be forgotten as they get older." But you know what I would say to that? That is completely wrong. Let's not forget that this is not just a hotel that they are lodging at. This is their home. This is where they eat, sleep, and cry. This is where they make friendships, break friendships, do their homework, and spend family time. This hotel is where their childhood memories will lay. Take a minute to think to yourself. What was your childhood home like and what was your favorite memory in it? This hotel is where that will lie for them. They will remember the rugged walls, torn up grass, cracked parking lot, and smell of smoke. But they will also remember our organization. They will remember us, as the people who came, not to take them away from their families, not to arrest one of their parents, not to give counseling to their mothers, not to bring a clipboard in and evaluate their home lives - they will remember Children Within Our Borders as those people who came to their homes for one sole purpose: to bring joy to them. They will remember the games we bring, the things we teach them, and how many times we all laughed. They will remember us as one of the only peoples who came solely for their well being. All that we want is their happiness and to empower them through education and knowledge. We want them to see that they are more than a product of their environment. This is what they will remember when they are 25 years old and reflecting on those childhood memories. Yes, it is just one hotel. But we, as an organization have come together and found one spot that we can make the biggest difference. We have found our sweet spot. We will continue to be the highlight to their day, week, and month and we are only beginning to grow in their community. Yes, right now it is just once a month. But with time, we will change that to twice a month, bi-weekly, weekly, and eventually, even daily visits. We will eventually integrate ourselves and our goals for their development and prosperity into their daily lives. We will become part of that monotonous routine of living in a hotel, and give them a positive outlet to look forward to. Our growth is exponential. We just started under 6 months ago, and it gives me chills when I think about all of the lives we have touched already. This organization brings me pure happiness, and this, right now, is just the beginning." - Olivia Bashton