A Moving Experience

A Moving Experience, Volunteer Training

By: Debbie Rich, Director of Philanthropy and Communications

I got up on a beautiful Saturday morning to attend the Tu Nidito volunteer training that was held on January 28th. As a new employee, I was excited to learn about the volunteer training and meet our incoming volunteers. I noticed that I was running a few minutes late, but wasn’t too concerned – saying to myself, “this is Tucson, no one is ever on time”. I drove into the parking lot and it was packed at 8:55. Everyone was inside ready to go, waiting for the day to start.

I was greeted by Lynda Stites, our Coordinator of Volunteer Services, I could feel her warmth and excitement for the upcoming day. The Tu Nidito living room was full, only one empty seat remained. I looked around at the 25 incoming volunteers and I could feel the same warmth I felt from Lynda.  This was going to be an amazing day.

Serena Sahajian, Bereavement Programs Manager, and Amerika McDaniel, Bi-lingual support specialist, were set to lead the training. Together these 2 individuals embody all that Tu Nidito aspires to provide for clients and volunteers: warmth, empathy, calm, curiosity and that important spark of joy.  I could tell they were totally prepared to hold this space and ensure that these volunteers had the tools and perspective they would need to be effective with our clients. 

Jumping right into the day, they posed a check-in question evoking connection with the group. The simple act of moving from person to person to learn their names and what brought them to the training created community. Everyone was there for the same reason, to learn, listen and absorb the empathetic energy it takes to support those who grieve. I was taken aback by the attendees, the group was comprised of college students, retirees, working folks and a few past program clients. Each one had a deep connection to Tu Nidito’s mission of creating a community of acceptance and understanding for those grieving a serious medical condition or death. Not all had firsthand experience, yet all had the desire to be of service.

I was immersed in the learning and the tools and tactics Serena and Amerika shared to ready us all to support those grieving. When I think of what stood out most, these words come to mind, “trust the process; I will never know how you feel, and I am here for you; everyone has the tools to work through grief, our service is to walk alongside them; turn to a child and say… I am listening.”   Such powerful tools!

I asked Lynda, Serena and Amerika to share their “AHA” moments…

Lynda responded, “I was really impressed by the trainers, Serena and Amerika, and their breadth of knowledge and insight, as well as their preparation and attention to detail. Our volunteer trainees were all engaged and asked good questions. I thought our group had some diversity that will benefit our families.”

Serena reflected, “What struck me the most, was how this group of volunteers already had a great foundation of knowledge around how to support and be empathetic. The way they were able to provide examples on why certain phrases or actions were helpful or unhelpful from their own personal grief experiences not only showed us, as staff, that they are going to make great facilitators, but also provided additional training material for their peers in the group. I was really blown away by that!”

Amerika shared “Something that stood out to me was before going on our tour of Tu Nidito, we went over reflective/active listening and how important it is to parrot back what the kids are saying so that they know we are listening. During our mocking talking circle all of the volunteers participated in the parroting process, which was really neat to see!”

Stay tuned for the next volunteer training dates and join us for the magic of Tu Nidito.