JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2014

Hannah NersasianHannah Nersasian has a passion for helping those in need and a gift for inspiring others to help as well. The new manager of JF&CS Volunteer Services has coordinated programs for children and refugees, for immigrants and business people, for small nonprofits and large multi-national companies. She has also helped dig a watering hole and taken down a tiger house at a safari park.

"There were ostriches and wildebeests watching us work but the tigers were of course in a cage!" recalled Hannah.

Through it all, Hannah has supported and coordinated efforts to create the most meaningful and rewarding opportunities for volunteers. Now Hannah will be applying this expertise at JF&CS. In this role she is both the first point of contact for anyone wishing to volunteer and a manager thinking strategically about how the agency can best use and support its volunteers.

"Volunteering offers a unique perspective. When someone volunteers their time, the recipient knows that person doesn't have to be there with them. That makes a massive difference to them," said Hannah. "And it matters to the agency to have extra support from people who have different perspectives and skill sets."

A British citizen married to an American, she brings a worldly perspective and a wealth of practical experience. Hannah grew up in Somerset, a rural county in southwest England and came to the States to pursue a Master's degree in international relations at Boston University. After graduation, she returned to the UK and began working for a refugee mentoring program that matched London residents with refugees, primarily from Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Somalia.

Hannah then worked as project manager at an innovative organization called TimeBank, which helps individuals and businesses find rewarding volunteer opportunities. On behalf of Sony UK and T-Mobile, she organized promotional events and established partnerships with local nonprofits. This involved a wide range of activities, some of them a bit surprising.

In addition to their time at the safari park, Sony staff served meals to families of children in hospice care, rounded up cattle on a hillside in Surrey, produced a promotional video for a horseback-riding school for children with disabilities, cleared scrub from countless fields, and painted a mural for a local youth group. Within 18 months, 12 percent of Sony UK staff had volunteered, giving many hours to their community.

"Volunteerism has the potential to make a massive difference in building community and changing people's perspective. It's a unique role that can't be filled by someone who's paid," said Hannah.

Before Hannah joined JF&CS she worked as director of the Greater Boston Playspace Program at Horizons for Homeless Children. There she managed 53 shelter partnerships and a network of more than 600 volunteers who led playtime activities for children living in shelters. It was through her work at Horizons that she learned about JF&CS.

Hannah has begun her time at the agency by meeting with program managers to identify how volunteers could help meet their needs as well as the support and training volunteers would require. "I'm excited about the breadth of services offered. It's incredible to be talking about Parkinson's one day and disabilities the next. Our mission of improving people's lives is wonderful," she said.

She's also trying on a number of volunteer roles herself. So far she's participated in a Nutrition Services workshop, helped with a Family Table distribution, and attended the Friendly Visitor Passover Seder.

"This gives me a birds-eye view of all the moving parts. Volunteers all have such a part to play in supporting us and supporting families," said Hannah. "I'm looking forward to expanding the ways we use volunteers and making sure they know how much we appreciate them."

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.

Read more articles from JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2014.