Around Phoenix Rising, one group of parents is referred to as ‘The Usual Suspects’. Whenever we host an event or need volunteers they are the first to sign up, rope in friends and contribute in whatever way is needed. What’s even more remarkable is that all are single mothers who work full time (and in one case, hold down a full course load plus a part time job). With our first annual Holiday Fair coming up this Saturday, we decided to ask them what motivates such ongoing participation and what they get out of volunteering.
“To me, it’s an honor to be asked to help with the school events,” says Cari Schwisow, whose son Austin is a 6th grader. “ I love being a part of the school and if I can help, even a little, for it to be a success, I am thrilled.” Kira Winterbotham, mother of fourth grader Shaynan, appreciates “the joy of being part of something greater than everyday life, the sense of community and fun.” For Veronica Fernandez, “The school is doing so much for our kids and since you don’t charge full tuition, this is just a little contribution that we can do in return.” Jan D’Hooge says simply, “I believe in what Phoenix Rising stands for and I think contributing is a critical component of being part of a community.”
All four agree that volunteering has some side benefits. As Kira puts it, “I gain a sense of feeling more connected and part of the school, like I belong to a community or family. Some of my best friendships would not have developed and grown if I had not volunteered.” Jan enjoys seeing the children’s reaction. “I get to see all the smiles on the children’s faces as their latest ‘event’ comes together,” she says. Such joy is the result of teamwork, Veronica believes. “By working together, we create this synergy and strength that creates better results and as a result the parents and the kids enjoy the events more.”
So how do they juggle their busy schedules, work life, parenting and staying involved with the school? “It can be A LOT,” says Cari. “However, if I can help and have the time, I will. Plus, it really doesn’t take as much time and effort as we think it will.” Kira agrees. “While being a single parent is challenging, I do not feel like volunteering is so time consuming that it infringes on my ability to work or parent. I feel a responsibility to make sure this school is successful and continues to grow and shine.” Veronica explains it this way: “As a single parent and being from a different country, you tend to feel more lonely when you just arrived in a new place. For us, that wasn’t the case because we were part of the school family. So it doesn’t matter how busy I am, the least I can do is organize my day and be here. The school provides me with a connection to a bigger family.” Read full “Usual Suspects” interviews here