Friends of Aine is New Hampshire’s only nonprofit whose sole mission is to support grieving children, teens and families, and they urgently need volunteers. Now, Friends of Aine operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays out of their center in Manchester.
They’re ready to expand to Wednesdays, which means they’re actively seeking about 25 more volunteers. Currently, Friends of Aine has a volunteer orientation scheduled for Wednesday, February 9, and a full training for facilitators on Saturday, February 19. Visit this link for volunteer information and an application.
The name Friends of Aine comes from Aine, the daughter of co-founders Christine and David Phillips. Aine passed away unexpectedly at age 8. Linda Dinndorf is the Training and Education Coordinator for Friends of Aine. Linda’s daughters were good friends of Aine.
We are the only center in the state that solely does this mission, so we have a large geography to draw from, and people are seeking us out. We find that people are seeking us out from further and further away,” Linda said.
The support groups are for kids ages four to 18 years old and their caregivers. Groups are run by a team of facilitators, and groups are broken up into developmental age groups:
- Littles (ages four to seven)
- Middles (ages eight to 10)
- Tweens (ages 11 to 13)
- Teens (ages 14 to 18)
Adding caregivers, there are at least five groups running nightly, with about 15-20 volunteers on hand for each session.
“Facilitators allow us to do what we do and to do it for free. They’re hugely important to us. They are the ones who provide direct service with our families, our children, our teens, our adults, and they get to know the kids,” Linda said. “They work side by side with them. They help navigate the discussions and work through activities and just develop that rapport with our grieving population, so they’re tremendously important to us.”
Aside from facilitators, ambassador volunteers help organize the logistics of the house and make sure everybody goes where they need to be. Attendance is taken, snacks are given out, etc.
Each meeting has a topic or theme, and each group covers through different types of interactions. Facilitators adapt the material and the topic to their group. Children might play games. Adults might have more of a conversation. There’s a closing ceremony at each meeting. Then, facilitators gather together for a debrief.
The pandemic doesn’t diminish the need
“What we learned during the pandemic is we need to be flexible and work with our community of grieving people and to meet them where they’re at. But to do it in the safest way possible. So far, we’ve had a tremendous team willing to work with us in different scenarios: indoors, outdoors, on Zoom,” Linda said.
What makes an ideal volunteer?
“Someone who’s passionate about the work we do. Someone who just wants to make a difference in the lives of children and teens and families. Many of our volunteers have personal grief experiences. You don’t have to have one to be a volunteer, but you definitely need to be someone who can empathize with someone who has been through those experiences and to be willing to talk about it and engage in it,” Linda said.
Linda is generally the first point of contact for volunteers and she’s very upfront and open about the work the group does. Part of the training involves observation so volunteers see how sessions work so they feel completely comfortable in the role.
“Our volunteers tend to be people who really like what they do, and they talk positively about it. They bring somebody else in and it kind of goes on like that. I think that word of mouth may be our best source of advertising. We have people who just come through the facility and say, ‘Oh my gosh, what a nice environment. I know somebody who might want to do this work,’” Linda said.
Reach out to Linda and Friends of Aine here to become a volunteer.