“Every other week we host a little night for some fine-arts activities,” said Jennifer Reynolds, senior in psychology. “We do arts and crafts and music and dance. We offer classes for these kids that last about two hours on Monday night. Basically, as volunteers, we are paired up with a child or teenager and we escort them through the classes.”
Opelika Sportsplex Assistant Director John Huling said he was happy to host the program in his building for free. Both he and Burque won the 2010 Innovative Program of the Year award for their work.
Burque said her main goal was to provide additional opportunities for people with disabilities, who she feels often aren’t catered to when it comes to extracurricular activities.
“The mission of social work is to meet basic needs and enhance the quality of life and well-being for all people, with particular attention to the vulnerable, the oppressed and those who are in poverty,” Burque said.
Those with disabilities are intrinsically more vulnerable than other people, she said, so Burque designed the program to target those with disabilities ages 11–21.
Reynolds said the program has been beneficial to her, and she thinks it is a good way for others to get involved, too.
“If somebody wanted to get started with this, it’s really not hard to do,” Reynolds said. “It’s only two Mondays out of the month for a couple of hours at night, so it’s not very time-consuming at all. It’s just a great way to get started with volunteer work.”
Burque said volunteering is also a way to understand more about other groups one may not know much about.
“With most people we just see the top of the iceberg, but for every individual for every group there’s so much more going on that’s beneath the surface,” Burque said.
It is easy to become close to one’s assigned student, and Reynolds said she was happy to be working this year with the same person she was assigned last year.
“All of the children are just so sweet, and you just love them the second you meet them, so it is really not hard to get used to,” Reynolds said. “Last semester I was paired up with one teenager, and I’m lucky enough that he’s back this semester so I get to work with him again. He has become my best friend, and I love him so much, so it’s been great.”
Though students in social work make up the majority of those who volunteer, Burque encourages all students to get involved with Brave Hearts or any other social-service organization.
“Step past your fear and discomfort to say person to person, human to human, ‘How could I possibly help?’” Burque said. “I think as humans we can all push ourselves forward and move toward the light as opposed to away from the light.”