Meet our PAL: Nick-Horizons For Homeless Children

Meet our PAL: Nick Daher

As National Volunteer Week (April 15-22) continues, we continue to spotlight more stories from our incredible PALs! Make sure you share your volunteer story on social media, with the hashtag #WhyIVolunteer2018!

Meet our PAL: Nick Daher

How long have you been a PAL? What keeps you coming back year after year?
I’ve been volunteering as a PAL for three years. After each shift, it’s amazing to see how much the kids enjoy those two hours. I look forward to it every week. My life is pretty crazy – with my personal commitments and job – but I do really look forward to those two hours where I can shut off to volunteer. I leave with a really clear head and benefit as much as – if not more than – the kids do.

I’ve always had a desire to get more involved with the community. As much as I was enjoying that, I felt like there was more I could be doing… especially for kids in tough circumstances so I could maximize the impact.

Tell us about the shelter where you volunteer.
There are about 40 families with shared apartments. A lot of the residents are displaced because of domestic violence, eviction, or substance abuse, and they show up to the shelter with barely anything. It’s a tight space, but the kids don’t see it like that, they see it as a time to play. They’re so appreciative to use a puzzle or use play dough. Every time I leave, I’m reminded of how I took for granted what I had the first 19 years of my life.

“I’ve benefited from this program because it puts everything in perspective. It changes the type of person you are.”

Are there any standout stories, relationships or successful outcomes that have really stayed with you?
Early on – probably the first couple of months – it was really challenging. It was a night shift so it was packed. It was me and this other girl who had just finished training. There were more than 20 kids and neither of us had experience, so we had to learn quick. One kid who stood out, Q, was so funny and was always laughing. One day it came time for me to leave and he asked, “Why are you going home?” He asked who I live with and he couldn’t understand why I lived by myself. He’s lived in a shelter his whole life.

How has volunteering with Horizons’ changed your perception of homelessness in Massachusetts?
We’re all naïve to how people become homeless. It’s a scary situation because there’s no good solution to get ahead. What’s great about Horizons is that during the two hours of a Playspace shift, parents can work on apartment applications, or so many of the parents are relieved to do something as simple as doing the laundry. Most of the residents are single mothers. I don’t know how they are expected to find jobs when they have to watch kids, so we’re happy to help them have some time for themselves.

To learn more about becoming a PAL like Nick, click here. Trainings are held regularly across the state!