POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 24, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:35 a.m. HST, May 24, 2011
Helping others is good for the soul, allowing us to live happier, more productive lives. This is one of the valuable lessons Margaret Malone learned when she became a volunteer mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu program.
Malone, a Waipahu resident who is director of quality and training at PACT (Parents and Children Together), meets with her assigned Little Sister, Victoria Cuba, once a week, teaching her to believe in herself and to dream big. The pair enjoys cooking, excursions and sitting around swapping stories. Their first outing took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2007, an introduction that included lunch and bowling.
"Words can't express how much Victoria means to me," Malone said.
Fourteen-year-old Cuba responded with a "ditto," agreeing that they are perfectly matched.
Malone decided to volunteer after her husband of 26 years died of cancer in 2006. "I couldn't believe I was a widow at 46."
In taking stock of her life, she said, "I didn't want to lead a self-centered life. Some people live their whole lives and don't make any impact. If you step outside of yourself and help someone else, it heals you, too. I needed to find an outlet where I could love and nurture someone. Love definitely helped me move forward."
Soon after the two were matched, Cuba's family experienced financial difficulties.
"When I was in sixth grade, we were evicted," she said.
Her family now has a home, but she recalls having lived in a shipping container for about nine months before they could get back on their feet.
"I'd climb trees and let my imagination run wild," Cuba said. "My mom was worried that it would affect me physically, emotionally and spiritually. But I felt confident and comfortable with Margaret. She's helped me through many challenges."
Malone said: "When a family struggles, they need to deal with the here and now. I help her look to the future. We broaden each other's horizons."
The importance of education, relationships, boys, dealing with family arguments, and global issues are part of their many conversations. "Margaret has helped me become the person I am today," Cuba said.
One of their favorite activities is cooking together.
"We love to make cookies. And we are always trying to perfect our chili recipe," Malone said. "Victoria gets to take stuff home to her family and make her contribution."
Cuba is finishing up her freshman year in high school and dreams of becoming a journalist. She wrote a poem for Malone when she was awarded "Big Sister of the Year" a few months ago. In the poem she described her mentor as an "angel from God."
"We've never had a bad time together. She cracks me up," Malone said. "I really feel that I get more than I give. The Big Brothers Big Sisters experience has been one of the most rewarding relationships that I've ever had."
"Be Well" features inspiring stories of people dealing with challenges. Reach Nancy Arcayna at email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 529-4808.