Best Buddies

A volunteering interview by: Amanda DaSilva

Fernanda Oliveira is a soon to be college graduate at Mount Holyoke College, she has always had a special place in her heart for volunteering. In her high school years she volunteered for Best Buddies at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High in Miami, FL and had fun with every moment of it. Fernanda said there were many activities that this organization had prepared for her once she began to make progress in this organization. She remembers tutoring teenagers that had mental and physical disabilities, sometimes both. She taught them how to socialize with the people around them so they could be accepted for who they are. This organization opened opportunities to meet other special teens that went to different schools in the area and others all around the world. She went to conferences out of state and would learn through people so she could bring those messages back to school and spread the awareness of not bullying the handicapped teenagers. “I was a very nice person and I didn’t understand why some people weren’t” says Fernanda. She helped keep the Special Olympics in order by helping the athletes get to their station on time in order to perform. “I remember seeing their smiles and it would just make my heart melt because they deserve all the happiness in the world” she adds. Not one second was wasted on Fernanda’s watch, she made every living second count.

The Inspiration

Her mom was one of the inspirations in this scenario. She always saw her mother being so good-natured and kind to anyone that ever came her way and she hoped that one day she would become just like her. She remembers her mom leaving to volunteer at retirement homes so she could help the elderly and as a grown woman looking back her moms actions, she’s glad to see she followed in her footsteps. As a young girl Fernanda was always nice to people no matter what trouble they caused to her. It may have made her come off as weak but her actions truly revealed that she was one of the strongest of them all. She had a thirst like no other to meet new people that were doing significant things in her community. She had the memory of the special-ed kids being bullied in her elementary school and ever since that memory stuck she was inspired to help kids like them be accepted and treated as normal people. “Just because they were born with a mental disability doesn’t mean their different from anyone else” says Fernanda. As a curious young woman she always wanted to know why people treated these kids so differently over something they could simply not control. She strived for equality within her school so these kids didn’t have to dread showing up to class. A lot of people often say curiosity killed the cat but her curiosity revived the broken bullied souls of all these teenagers. She volunteered to give these teens the high school experience that they deserve and she’d be lying if she said they didn’t.

The Aha! moment…

Being part of this organization shows Fernanda that there is people out there willing to help those with disabilities and aren’t ashamed of it. It taught her that some people will understand to be very helpful and that some will be very ignorant and ignore the fact that people with disabilities work just like we do, just a tad bit slower. It taught her to never give up on spreading a message if it means making the lives of people better by a whole lot. She learned that these teenagers are not alone; there are plenty of other people out there in this massive world just like them. In this experience she learned how to keep in touch with all the kids she touched the lives of during her 4 years of being in this organization. Until this very day she keeps in touch with her best friend Juan who has autism. She invites him to all the holiday parties and has lunch with him whenever she’s in town. It has taught her to have patience because great things take a tremendous amount of time. This organization has made her open up her mind and see things from all levels so she doesn’t become like the ignorant people that bully what they don’t understand. It has taught her to care for those around her because every one of them is fighting a battle that we know nothing about.

To summarize it in three words…

self-discovery,kindness,solidarity

Why should you do this

Because when you volunteer you’re making the lives of people better. You’re making it easier for them to take the next step in their life.

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