Who can be a PAL?
- Anyone over 18 years old. Applicants 16-17 years of age may complete PAL training and volunteer with parental supervision.
- Interest in working with children ages 0-6 and a sensitivity to those experiencing homelessness required.
- Playspaces are very active environments, so PALs must be able to be physically and mentally engage with young children; specifically, a PAL must be able to lift and hold infants/toddlers, move from a standing to seated position on the floor, bend down and lift 25-30lbs., maintain appropriate boundaries, and make sound decisions about safety in a busy environment.
- PALs must consent to a CORI criminal record check.
What does a PAL do?
- Use a playful approach to enhance the social, physical, and emotional development of the children who visit our Playspaces.
- Prepare and lead age-appropriate activities, games, and/or projects with children in shelters in Massachusetts.
- Foster healthy interactions with children and promote the strengthening of self-confidence and positive self-esteem through play.
- Maintain communications with Playspace Program staff and Shelter Liaisons.
- Become a valued member of a state-wide corps of volunteers who build camaraderie with each other and make an impact in the lives of vulnerable families.
How do I get started as a PAL?
For the safety of our children the following is required prior to starting as a PAL:
- Complete this online application
- Engage in a pre-screening phone call with a Horizons staff member
- Attend the 1 hour virtual PAL orientation
- Complete a CORI criminal background check
- Provide information for 2 references
What should I expect from my volunteer experience?
- Playspaces are designed for children ages 0-6, but we welcome children who are a little older who can enjoy the toys and materials provided. PALs will have the flexibility to come to Playspace with ideas for activities and games, or simply provide the opportunity to allow children to lead without an agenda or specific curriculum.
- We serve wonderful, thoughtful, creative, and imaginative children who reside in the shelter with at least one parent and possibly other siblings. Consistent, supportive relationships outside of their family (like with a PAL) can have a profound impact on their positive development.
- Playtime can be a stress reliever for both children and adults. A child’s ability to interact and play can be an outlet for creativity and builds resiliency for the future.
What is the time commitment to be a PAL?
- PALs are assigned to a weekly two-hour shift at a shelter nearest them (or of greatest need if they are willing to travel a little further!) We require a minimum commitment of 6 months.
- Playspace shifts are available Monday-Thursday with the majority operating between 5-8pm; limited morning/afternoon shifts are available depending on the needs of the shelter.
What are you looking for in a PAL?
- We are looking for people who want to make a difference in their community and positively impact the lives of young children through play.
- We want PALs who are caring, creative, consistent, and want to have fun and be silly (if you like Play-doh, costumes, arts & crafts, story-reading, and making a child’s day, then this is the volunteer opportunity for you!)
- Many have said that being a PAL gives them a renewed perspective and sensitivity for those living in poverty, an opportunity to give back in a tangible and valuable way, and provides the human connection that makes life richer.