Volunteering from the heart

When Robert Buelna and Janeth Wilson first began volunteering with Buckner, they had no idea the impact it would have on their lives. They wanted to change children’s lives for the better, but instead, it was their own hearts that were changed.

Robert and Janeth both attended Frenship High School in Wolfforth, Texas and were involved with DECA, an organization that prepares emerging leaders to be college and career ready. Their DECA sponsor Amy Baker was a former Buckner foster parent, and she encouraged them to consider serving foster children and families. 

Robert and Janeth knew how much children in foster care had been through and believed it would take time to gain their trust. But they were dedicated to build a relationship with the children by volunteering at events where they could foster those relationships by playing with them and doing crafts together.

“With some kids – because of their past – it was more difficult for them to open up,” Robert said. “Once they realized that we weren’t going anywhere they started to act like themselves.”

As they began serving more with Buckner, Robert and Janeth saw the walls the children had built up slowly crumble down. At each event Robert and Janeth volunteered at, their relationships with the children continued to grow. Slowly, the children began to see Robert and Janeth as true friends. Seeing the impact they were making, Robert and Janeth were inspired and looked forward to future volunteer opportunities with Buckner.

“I loved walking into an event where I was volunteering and hearing my name,” Janeth said. “It was a special moment knowing that there were kids who remembered me, despite the number of people that go in and out of their lives. I was a familiar face that brought them joy and they were the same to me.”

Whether helping with a booth at Fall Festival or creating crafts on the weekends, Robert and Janeth always were excited and happy as they were surrounded by excited little ones ready to play.

Volunteering with the children at Buckner changed Janeth’s and Robert’s lives more than they expected. Robert, now a sophomore at Texas Tech University, and Janeth, a senior at Frenship High School, both credit their Buckner volunteering as the catalyst for choosing their future career paths. Robert is studying to become a pediatrician, and Janeth plans to attend the University of Texas with intentions to work with special needs children at an elementary school. She also is volunteering as a CASA worker.

As well as bringing career goals to fruition, volunteering has also changed the way Robert looks at his daily life. He was inspired by the way the children always had smiles on their faces despite what was going on in their lives.

“It taught me to find the good in every situation no matter how hard it is,” he said.

On Nov. 2, the DECA program of Frenship High School was recognized as the most outstanding youth group volunteer organization of 2016. Both Robert and Janeth were present to accept the award.

“While we thought we were changing the lives of those in need, those precious children were really changing us,” Janeth said.  

Written by Bianca Baylon, Buckner volunteer and engagement intern

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