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Unsung Heroes: Volunteering 'pays the soul'

Bermuda may be a small island but it is full of unsung heroes — inspirational residents who are making a real difference in their communities and improving the lives of others, without expecting any recognition or praise. In our regular feature, we celebrate the incredible achievements of the ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.

By Lisa Simpson

Ruth Moran tirelessly devotes her time and energy to improving the lives of Bermuda's young people.

Mrs Moran volunteers with Mirrors, a personal development programme for children aged 8 and over, that aims to transform the lives of its participants through mentoring and coaching.

“It's a connection that can only strengthen our community”, Mrs Moran said, “that can only have young people feel that they are valued, and have the older people in the community realise that the young people are phenomenal human beings.”

Mrs Moran started volunteering with Mirrors in 2007. She now sits on the Board of Directors of Mirrors Alumni and Friends Association (MAFA), and takes an active role in the production and logistics of the programme.

She juggles this with working full-time as a medical accounts coordinator at the Hamilton Medical Centre, a job that she says “pays the bills”, but volunteering “pays the soul”.

Mrs Moran started at Mirrors as a Committed Partner, a role that involves being paired with one of the participants over a nine-month period, meeting monthly and working on the goals set out at the start of the programme.

This also includes a residential component, a six-day, intensive, on-site course, which Mrs Moran was able to participate in for the first time this year.

“It was extremely exciting and powerful to see these young people transform over those six days,” she said.

“From a place of not seeing possibility for themselves to seeing that the dreams they had when they were 4, 5, 6 years old actually are possible, regardless of the situations and circumstances,” she said.

“They stand taller, they stand straighter, they are more confident in their speech — to see that in our young people is beyond description,” she added.

Some of those mentored by Mrs Moran still stop by her job, even after the nine months are up, just to check in or for a follow-up coaching session.

Mrs Moran said that these relationships can last a lifetime.

“It's a real sense of community, a sense of I could walk down the street and twist my ankle, and one of my young people, not even one that I coach, but one that was in the same group, wouldn't just walk past me,” Mrs Moran added.

“That kind of gives you a sense of security, belonging — even as adults we look to belong somewhere.”

Mrs Moran, who moved to Bermuda from Canada in 1980, first started volunteering in high school and did so throughout her teenage years and early twenties.

She said she got involved with Mirrors because she would be helping her own two daughters through their teenage years.

“I thought, if this programme is here, maybe I can learn something for myself to be a better parent,” she explained. “Maybe I can support their friends, maybe their friends will come through the programme.

“So I really looked at how I could make the community better for my daughters, and myself.

“Each time I sat down to do the training to be a better coach, I found I was able to take the methodology and put it into my own life, and become the parent I wanted to be, the daughter I wanted to be, the friend I wanted to be.”

Mrs Moran added: “So it really can transform our whole community, one person at a time.”

The programme started seven years ago and has benefited more than 700 young people, and about 2,000 adults have gone through the training process.

As of April this year, 92 per cent of participants that completed the programme more than two years ago have been law-abiding citizens.

“There is a misconception that it's for bad children, and it's not.” Mrs Moran said.

“It's for our community, to heal our community, to build a stronger community, and we can't do it without the adults volunteering and giving their time.”

She added: “Mirrors is always looking for volunteers. Because it has changed my life personally, I really encourage the community to have a look at the programme to see if it fits.

“There are many, many different roles, and they are not all nine-month commitments.

“There's an opportunity for anyone and everyone in our community to have an impact, not only on one child, but on multitudes of young people.”

• To donate to Mirrors, funding can be sent to Butterfield account 0600041690017. You can also e-mail mirrors@gov.bm or call 294-9291. Further information can be found at www.mirrors.bm.

• Do you know an Unsung Hero? Call Lisa on 278-0162 or e-mail lsimpson@royalgazette.com

Tireless volunteer: Moran, who mentors and coaches children through the Mirrors programme. These relationships, she says, can last a lifetime

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Published December 10, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2014 at 1:06 am)

Unsung Heroes: Volunteering 'pays the soul'

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