HSB’s I Have a Friend program pairs adult mentors who experienced loss as a child with children currently dealing with the same situation (Courtesy photo).
“Will I ever be normal again?”
Those words, spoken almost 20 years ago by a 12-year-old boy whose father had recently died, sparked the creation of Hospice of Santa Barbara’s innovative I Have a Friend® mentor program.
I Have a Friend matches trained adults who experienced the loss of a parent or sibling as a child with local children who are now in that same situation. Thanks to the kindness and dedication of volunteer mentors, grieving children are not alone on their difficult journey. Instead, they are given a companion who truly understands what they are going through and the many obstacles they will be forced to overcome in the years ahead.
“I Have a Friend is one of my favorite programs at HSB,” said Hospice of Santa Barbara CEO David Selberg. “These relationships bring about miraculous changes in the children who participate in the program. They no longer feel so alone and can express their feelings to someone who truly understands. Both mentor and mentee can share the memories and experiences of those they lost. I would encourage anyone in a position to make a difference in a child’s life to take advantage of this rewarding opportunity.”
Not only does the I Have a Friend program make a significant impact on the children in the program, it can also be life-changing for the adults who volunteer.
“Being a part of a child’s success story has been the most rewarding part of being a mentor, especially knowing that my mentee faced some of the same challenges I did growing up without my mom,” said I Have a Friend mentor Roxanne Moore. “To know that I’m making things easier for the next generation of Santa Barbara children who’ve experienced loss makes me proud to be a part of this community.”
Moore has been an I Have a Friend volunteer for over a decade and encourages others in the community to get involved.
“It may sound intimidating to take on this role in a grieving child’s life, but those of us who’ve experienced childhood loss are already equipped with the best tool for the mentor job – experience! After over 13 years volunteering for the program, I am thankful every day for what it has taught me and the joy it brings me.”
Hospice of Santa Barbara provides volunteers with all of the training needed to participate in the program and hosts support meetings so volunteers can share their experiences with others.
To learn more or to apply to become an I Have a Friend mentor, please contact Nicole Romasanta at (805) 563-8820 or visit www.hospiceofsantabarbara.org
Hospice of Santa Barbara
Hospice of Santa Barbara provides professional counseling, support groups, and patient care services free of charge to individuals and families who are grieving the death of a loved one or experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness. Hospice of Santa Barbara also provides counseling in our offices and on twelve local junior and high school campuses to children and teens who are grieving the loss of a loved one. For more information about Hospice of Santa Barbara, including volunteer opportunities, call (805) 563-8820 or visit www.hospiceofsantabarbara.org.