StandUp for Kids – Silicon Valley
What drives people to be devoted, committed and consistent to show up and have a positive impact on homeless youth?
Meet Catherine Pham, or Cat for short, a full time working mom of a toddler and our amazing Outreach Coordinator. Cat has been with StandUp for Kids – Silicon Valley for over 5 years and volunteers with a lot of patience and kindness. Today she talks about the impact of volunteering and the importance of being consistent.
Cat lives by the belief that: “Leave things better than you find them. And the best thing we can do is show kindness! That means that we constantly remind ourselves that people come from different paths and that maybe their day was a bad day for them we don’t know…but do what you can do to help!” She is convinced that “volunteering does have an impact on yourself, to build relationships…by showing consistency. I like giving back, but not just one time but to build a community.” She further stated that: “You have your immediate family, your work, but beyond that what do you have?” She says that things might change when you are getting older…and you might ask when you are 65 years old, what did you achieve? How many communities have you built?
“Volunteering and service has always been a huge part of my life.” Cat learned first about StandUp for Kids through the VolunteerMatch website. At the same time a post from a long term volunteer Jeannette Weedermann at Nextdoor Neighbor caught her eye, which talked about the Annual 48 Hours Event, Cat was curious and responded right away.
Eager to learn more about the nonprofit organization, which runs 100% by volunteers, Cat not only devoted immediately in full steam, she even recruited her husband Eric, her brother Anthony and his wife Fernanda. “I said: You are joining me, we are all doing this together! And we all joined at the same time!” They participated in the required New Volunteer Orientation and Basic Outreach Training which is offered at least once a month.
“Paraphrasing from the orientation and what I took away is that: Being with StandUp is a long game. You don’t go for a short satisfaction like a soup kitchen where you feed someone and get instant gratification. Because it takes time to build a relationship [with the kids] and earn and develop their trust, you have to go and need to go in constantly. To show up consistently it paves the way for that gratification, it’s not instant but it is long lasting, that’s the impact I think we make, but it is a long way.”
What attracted Cat about StandUp was “the fact that there was not a strict time requirement, like once a week.” That worked out with her schedule and living in the greater San Jose area and seeing homelessness on a daily basis, “it was definitely a cause that resonated, especially that StandUp is focusing on homeless youth that was very unique”, instead of other organizations that focus on homelessness as a whole. “It also helped that the Outreach Center The Village was close by.”
“In the beginning our schedule was twice a month, sometime on the weekend but mostly on a weekday. Again, we try to be consistent to come in and it was satisfying to see the kids consistently. They won’t trust you if they don’t see you there because everyone in their life does come and go. The other take away I’ve learned from StandUp is that you do everything to help them, but you can’t do things for them. Because they have to learn it themselves. It’s like parenting. You have to give them the tools and watch them do it. That they have the confidence, ability and all that goodness that part was a challenging part for me but it was the right thing to do, but just the longer way of doing it. It needs a lot of patience.
If there was an Outreach event, we tried to do Outreach as well. Then I got pregnant and scaled back on what I was able to do, and now with our schedule I’m committed to put together all things related to Outreach. Because we need more exposure and marketing at the moment [after COVID] we do Outreach once a week on the weekend that hopefully makes an impact to bring more homeless youth in.”
At some point Cat was hoping to develop a deeper relationship with a homeless youth. She was paired up with a girl who came to The Village regularly and Cat became her mentor. “I realized again that there was no instant anything. Even though the girl was thinking very logically and somehow already had her life together it felt that the baby steps we tried to achieve for her we took one step forward and three back. Our time together was special and I had a good relationship with her. Unfortunately she moved out of state and out of our program, but I absolutely still think and remember her to this day and hope that I have a positive impact on her life for a couple of months.”
Thank you Cat for constantly thinking if a person would be interested in volunteering and asking them: “Hey, have you ever considered volunteering?” Even if it’s not always the right match, at least you tried! And thank you for recruiting your husband Eric, with whom she is coordinating Outreach together. “Eric didn’t grow up in a lifestyle that volunteered, that wasn’t anything that he did or needed to do or was interested in doing, it wasn’t part of his normal life. But then we dated and it took encouragement for him to do it, but he does have an appreciation for it now. He is on the same page, and we want to continue to do and teach our daughter that volunteering has value.”