Posted by Hannah Nersasian
The Volunteer Spotlight profiles a JF&CS volunteer, showing how varied volunteer roles are at JF&CS and recognizing individuals without whom we could not do what we do.
“I’ve found the niche I’ve always wanted – I love what I do and feel tremendously lucky to have found it.”
Jean McAuliffe spent her 44 year career as a pediatric nurse. Initially she worked with older children, but as medicine developed and it became possible to treat sick and premature babies, she transitioned into working in the Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit (NICU). It was there she stayed, learning everything she could about child development to inform how she worked with the families.
When it came time to retire, Jean wanted to find a volunteer role that involved babies – “I have a passion for babies and I knew I had to find something or I’d be sad!” Jean recounted.
It was around this time that Jean met Peggy Kaufman, Director of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support®, while they were both serving on the board of the Boston Institute for the Development of Infants and Parents. “When I found out about the kind of work Peggy was doing I kept thinking that’s the kind of work I want to do… so I asked her what I could do.”
Initially there wasn’t a clear role for Jean – “I don’t think they quite knew what to do with me,” she recalled. But as Jean learned more about the work of CERS, she identified the Oliver, Ian, and Serenity Wolk Fragile Beginnings program, which supports parents of premature infants, as where she could be of most use. “I just started out going on visits and sharing my perspective on the baby. The staff could see things I couldn’t with the parents and I could see things they couldn’t with the infants.”
It became clear that Jean’s skill set could be invaluable to the work of the Fragile Beginnings staff and with her training in infant massage there seemed to be a concrete role in the work with families. “Doing baby massage on healthy babies is very different than on preemies and I got excited as my training and experience meant I knew how to adapt it. I was able to take what I had learned and adapt it to use on sickly, small babies,” Jean said about her role.
Since starting with JF&CS in December 2012, Jean has provided almost 400 hours of service, visiting families all across eastern Massachusetts. In these visits she watches, listens, encourages, and offers guidance - teaching baby massage and sharing her lifetime of knowledge, empowering the parents as they continue to care for their premature child. “What better thing can you do other than focus on mothers and fathers taking care of fragile babies?” asked Jean.
When asked what her favorite part of her volunteer role was, Jean was quick to answer:
“The babies first, obviously, but second to that the staff. As soon as I met them I said ‘these are the people I should have worked with my whole life’ – they’re so insightful and broad minded and kind… I wanted to volunteer somewhere where people would recognize me and know who I am. I’ve found the niche I’ve always wanted – I love what I do and feel tremendously lucky to have found it.”
Hannah Nersasian is the JF&CS Manager of Volunteer Services. She joined JF&CS in February 2014. Prior to that, Hannah worked at Horizons for Homeless Children as the Director of the Greater Boston Playspace Program, a volunteer based program. Hannah is originally from Somerset, England and moved to Boston in 2010. In England, Hannah worked for a national volunteering organization called TimeBank, where she coordinated employee volunteering programs for Sony UK and T-Mobile.