For Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington volunteer Esteban Gamboa, seeing each child’s wish unfold is the most rewarding part of his volunteer role.
“I love the feeling of delivering relief to these kids. They can smile and be silly and dream. And for a moment, it’s like they aren’t struggling anymore.”
This is the goal of Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington: to grant a wish for each eligible child in our territory. And Esteban plays an important role in reaching families whose first language is not English. He is one of only a handful of Spanish-speaking volunteers for our local chapter.
There are many Spanish-speaking families in our region who qualify for a wish. Esteban, and other bilingual volunteers, help reach these families by translating important information and helping with the wishes themselves.
“The fact that we can bring this organization to families and break down barriers created by language and culture … it helps them to be at ease as they go through the wish process and understand what Make-A-Wish is all about,” said Esteban. “These families can feel like they are living in their own bubble at times, so reaching out helps them feel comfortable with their own language and cultural background.”
“You see the transformation,” said Esteban, of children who go through the wish experience.
“When the volunteers walk in, shy kids become outgoing. They communicate and open up,” he said. Then, when the wish comes true, “it’s so much fun to see the joy on these kids’ faces in the midst of their wish. They can let loose and just be kids.”
In fact, wishes play an important role in the healing process. A 2011 Wish Impact Study found that 99 percent of parents reported that the wish experience gave their child increased feelings of happiness.
Esteban’s most memorable wish took several months to come to fruition, but that didn’t deter the volunteer duo. “We kept the family excited about the wish … we became a continual presence and helped keep the emotional level high. When I greeted the family at the airport after the trip, I couldn’t even listen to them all at once; they had so many wonderful things to say.”
It is reactions like these that inspire Esteban to volunteer his time to make wishes come true.
“A lot of people think (volunteering with Make-A-Wish) is a more time-intensive commitment than it really is. The beauty of being a volunteer is that you really get to put your thumbprint on a wish, but you’re also working with a terrific team. You’re the face, the ambassador, to the child and their family.”
And it pays off.
“The rewards you reap from volunteering and taking one hour of your day to meet with a family or 10 minutes to write a thoughtful letter or make a quick phone call, it’s totally worth it.”
Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington is in need of Spanish-speaking volunteers in Eastern Washington. To learn more about volunteering or to sign up for orientation, visit our calendar of events.