1. Project Visitation is one of Family Programs Hawaii’s most important programs as it ensures sibling connections and familial bonding through monthly visitations and quarterly events sponsored by various companies and organizations. How did you get involved with Project Visitation?
I was helping with a SPED class at my children’s elementary school. I met an 8-year-old girl, and she was distraught and said that she could not see her brothers. I found out about Project Visitation and saw how I could help this sister see her brothers again.
2. Why did you decide to “bring” Project Visitation to Family Programs Hawaii?
Judge Browning and other attorneys were influential in bringing the program to FPH in 2008. The program needed Social Work Assessment and Management.
3. What was your original in role with PV at FPH?
I was the Communications Coordinator at first then it turned into a Volunteer Coordinator with FPH.
4. How did you see PV grow, etc. at FPH?
Nancy Lefler-Panela, Program Coordinator, and I wanted to model Camp To Belong and created Camp Connection. The camp started with a free campsite, and we slept in tents, outdoor showers, and outhouses for restrooms. Now the youth and camp counselors get to have the camp experience through established camp organizations like Camp Mokuleia. There were about 50 youths in the program in 2006, and at one time, had 200 youths. The program grew to include Hawaii Island visits, and we were flying youth from neighboring islands to visit their siblings during events.
5. What is your best memory about PV from “back then?”
There are so many stories. Full Circle Story: The main one is that the student I had in the SPED class got to be in the program and has an amazing volunteer. To this day, the volunteer keeps in touch with the sibling group and has attended their milestones like graduation, marriage, and birth of babies. The Hill Story: I have a limb difference and could not get up a hill to hike with the kids. Twin brothers that were aging out of the program decided to carry me up the hill because they wanted Auntie to see the view. One brother carried me up, and one brother carried me down. The Volunteer Couple Story: We had a couple come in to apply to volunteer. The male volunteer pulled me aside and shared that “he wanted to test out if his girlfriend is mom material.” After about three months into the program, the female volunteer shared that her boyfriend is going to be a great father whether they have biological children or adopted children. She said, “This was a good test for him.”
6. Why did you decide to “leave” PV?
I knew I needed to grow and was headhunted by another nonprofit.
7. What made you “come back” to PV?
I’m running a consultant company called bambooshoot. I help with effective communication and building teams in organizations. I love to create collaborative working environments where everyone has a voice. Keith asked me to come back and help build up the volunteer program again. There were five volunteers in the program during the pandemic.
8. Currently, what is your role with PV?
Volunteer Management Consultant
9. What is your goal for PV in 2023 and moving forward?
The goal is to have volunteers recognized for their time and effort in the program. Many of them have their own family, and the family makes the sacrifice of having one parent help out with Project Visitation. Some of the volunteers have been in foster care themselves and have not seen their siblings. I would also like to see volunteers more involved in the planning and coordination of events. Volunteers don’t want to be seen as another body. They have resources and connections.
9. What do you see are the biggest obstacles?
Keeping and recruiting volunteers. That’s the nature of building a volunteer team. Constant engagement and consistent communication.
10. What do you see are the biggest strengths of growing PV? The volunteers have talents and strengths that we have not yet tapped into. Other organizations I have consulted with have grown to include volunteers to be on the board, run fundraisers, seek grants, improve processes, and so much more.