Reviving the SPIRIT of Volunteerism
Between a hectic school schedule, outside jobs and a strong commitment to her family, it would have
been difficult to imagine Sara Jaffer
having time for much else.
The junior political science/history major put volunteerism at the
top of her list at a young age, however, and remained dedicated to
helping others even as a busy college student.
"I've been doing volunteer work
since I was about 10 years old. My
younger brother has a disability, so
I've been working on the Down's
Syndrome picnic and coaching
Special Olympics for years," Jaffer
For Jaffer, helping others came
naturally, due to her commitment to
her younger brother and other siblings. The oldest of four, she was
often more than just a big sister,
helping out when her parents were
busy with their independent business.
Her close ties to her siblings
were precisely what compelled
Jaffer to begin working as a Special
Olympics coach. When her brother
became active as a competitor,
Jaffer, then 17, jumped at the
opportunity to volunteer.
As a coach for the Spring Branch
Bears, Jaffer trained middle school
and high school students in various
athletic events. Although she
admitted that the job required quite
a commitment, she wouldn't have
traded that experience for the
"I get so much from working
with these kids. One day, when it
was sunny outside for the first time
in a while, one of my athletes made
the comment that it was a pretty
day, then he added that every day is
a beautiful day," Jaffer said. "It was
just a small comment, but it opened
my eyes. Now I try to look at life
The Special Olympics athletes
on Jaffer's team looked up to her as
a role model, friend and teacher,
and their influence was equally special to her, she said.
Even though her own brother
was handicapped, working with
disabled children helped her to
learn about other kinds of disabilities and the way they affected people's everyday lives.
In addition, Jaffer was able to
learn even more about the struggles
and successes of the mentally handicapped through her work with yet
another volunteer organization,
"Best Buddies pairs high school
and college students up with adults
who have a mental handicap," Jaffer
said. "For our buddies, it was a great
way to get out and be social,
because a lot of them never had the
Jaffer worked with Best Buddies
through UH's Metropolitan
Volunteer Program and would have
been content to stay involved with
the program forever had her other
obligations been different.
"I wasn't able to spend as much
time with my buddy as he deserved,
because it was getting too hard to
keep my grades up, too," Jaffer said.
"But I still love volunteering, and
Special Olympics means a lot to me.
I can have the worst day, but when I
go see my athletes, everything is
by Cortney Martin
A moment of glory
Sara Jaffer, right, poses with winning members of her Special Olympics team after a
day of competition. Jaffer became involved with the organization when her younger
brother, seen here in front of her, began competing as an athlete.
Photo courtesy of Sara Jaffer