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ORLANDO | Joseph Fayed is passionate about his work with Catholic Charities of Central Florida Refugee Services. As part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Fayed joined Catholic Charities in January 2023, assisting in volunteer recruitment and youth mentoring of refugees. He liked it so much, he signed up for another year.

“I’m really passionate about capacity building and helping instill creativity into an institution like Catholic Charities,” he said. “I like sharing my ideas, working with others in a team environment and building off each other.” He appreciates the support of Catholic Charities’ supervisors Maria Diez and Kim Latt.

“Joseph has been very important, especially in mentoring,” Diez said, referring to his making the initial contact with possible volunteers. In the past year Fayed helped with new online recruitment methods using sites such as Volunteer Match to find those willing to serve as youth mentors or tutors. With roughly 40 youth in Diez’s mentoring program and almost 60 in the youth tutoring program overseen by Kim Latt, they need all the volunteers they can get.

Because it is hard to obtain volunteers and youth tutoring seeks to help youth pass standardized tests and graduate from high school, there are government funds that assist in covering the cost of tutors for youth ages 11 to 18. This is not so with mentoring, aimed at those between ages 15 and 24.

Mentors provide either one-on-one or group social and emotional support. Mentoring requires vetting, fingerprinting, and training. “Recruiting is hard work,” said Diez. “Many potential volunteers change their minds during the approval process which takes some time, while others begin and leave because their situation has changed, or it is not what they thought. It’s a big commitment of at least four months.” Diez says pairing the right mentor with the right person can also be a challenge.

Diez and Latt must also report specific time spent on areas like career support, career planning, social/emotional support, engagement, resume writing, skill development and more. Gathering this information is time consuming. This is another reason Fayed’s work is significant. He assists in recording the data, while seeking out new avenues and resources for recruitment.

This year he began researching ways to do online outreach. He also focuses on college-aged volunteers willing to donate some of their time toward helping refugees. At the University of Central Florida for instance, he reached out to the Community Engagement office. He also puts an emphasis on places that have service learning and volunteering programs like Rollins College.

Fayed also works toward mobilizing volunteers to be more connected with one another, offering them opportunities to share best practices and simple camaraderie. Overall, Fayed has increased volunteers by an estimated 30%.

Fayed also researches fundraising options and grants and organizations willing to donate clothing, hygiene items and other items not provided through government agencies.

Fayed says the challenging work is helping him grow. “It definitely has helped me have a wider perspective and better listening ears for what someone is going through,” he said. “You never know what someone really endures until they open up. So always listening and taking note of what they have to say and being able to act as an ally requires more listening than actual talking.”

If you are interested in volunteering four hours per month as a youth mentor or tutor, contact Maria Diez at Maria.Diez@cflcc.org or call 407-658-1818, extension 1349.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, April 04, 2024