Friendship Blossoms Along the Bay

This past 4th of July called for an extra special celebration for Amway IBO Shannon Martin and her new friend, Jane (name changed for privacy). It was the first of many days Shannon and 12-year-old Jane will spend together as a part of a Long Island Youth Mentorship (LIYM) program, which pairs adult volunteers with at-risk children between the ages of 9 and 12 for an initial period of one year.

“LIYM’s aim for this partnership is to give the children involved the opportunity to be children, to show them that there are adults who have consistency and stability, and to share God’s love with the children through the actions of the adult,” shares Shannon. The children are considered at-risk for having been exposed to drug or alcohol abuse in their family, or removed from their parents’ home and placed with another family member. “What I especially find wonderful about LIYM’s organization is that they don’t match their volunteers with a child, introduce them and then disappear for a year. They require that the volunteers check in weekly for the first months, then biweekly,” explains Shannon.

The pairs meet once per week and spend a few hours together, enjoying activities such as bike riding or playing board games. “The main goal is to be able to have a conversation and get to know one another as friends, and to build a trust between the adult and child,” explains Shannon.

Strolling through a local park on Independence Day, Shannon and Jane got to know one another as they collected shells along the bay. Shannon admits it was difficult in the beginning to keep the conversation flowing as they both have introverted personalities. But over their past several meetings, Jane has been opening up. “The reward, I’m finding, is seeing a pre-teen girl be able to open up and share things,” says Shannon. “Jane has recently began sharing these witty comments based on her observations, and it’s amazing me that she sees as much as she does.”

Shannon says she has been most impacted by Jane’s response to attending a church service. Upon arriving, Shannon discovered that she needed to sit with the orchestra, and afterward she was feeling guilty for not having spent most of her time there with Jane. “When I shared this with her grandmother a week later, her response was that Jane had been so excited to tell her about the service,” says Shannon. “She informed me that Jane had been very happy to be able to watch me doing something that I do, because it gave her insight into who I am in a way that is natural to her, through observation.

“Over this coming year, I’m hoping that she will come to realize that I am there for her as a quasi-“older sister” and that she can share anything with me without it changing our friendship. My prayer is that I have an impact on her, that I share God’s love with her, and that she grows to be the wonderful person I’m currently seeing glimpses of.”

 

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