Ignacio Laguarda – Wicked Local Roslindale
BOSTON – Alex Souroufis overcame some major challenges in his life, and now he’s helping others do the same. Souroufis, a first generation Greek-American, was the first in his family to finish high school and go to college. That college was Harvard University, where he studied economics.
As tough as Souroufis’ journey was, he recognizes that others have had it much worse, like the children he mentors at the Home for Little Wanderers, the oldest child services agency in the country that provides housing, adoption and foster care for at-risk children and orphans.
Every Saturday, the 25-year-old West Roxbury resident goes to Harrington House in Mission Hill. The house is run by the Little Wanderers and is a 16-bed home for children between the ages of eight and 15.
He sees one of the residents for two hours every weekend. They sometimes go to the Arnold Arboretum, or play basketball or work together on homework. Sometimes they just talk about characters from DC Comics.
“Nothing was really handed down to me,” said Souroufis. “When I see these kids, I want to make sure they see opportunities and succeed in life.” By the end of each session, Souroufis isn’t sure who is getting the most benefit. “I would say it’s been very rewarding in the sense that I’m able to get as much from the kid as the kid is being able to get from me,” he said.
Souroufis graduated from Boston Latin School in 2007. At the school, he led a holiday gift drive for the Home for Little Wanderers and wondered how he could get more involved in the organization. He eventually did the volunteer training and became a mentor.
Approved volunteers are then sent to residential programs in locations including Boston, Plymouth, Walpole, Waltham, etc. Mentors volunteer for one to three hours a week.
According to Heather MacFarlane, Public Relations Manager for the home, about 1,400 volunteers offered their services at Home for Little Wanderers during 2012, most of which came from ongoing volunteer groups, one-time groups and special events. The list of individual volunteers is about 42 people.
The staff at the home is comprised of about 600 people and helps about 7,000 children and young adults from birth to age 22 each year.
“Our volunteer needs are always changing,” said MacFarlane, in an emailed statement. “However, our greatest need continues to be male mentors of diverse backgrounds, especially to work with teenage boys at our Southeast Campus in Plymouth and Longview Farm in Walpole.”
So far, Souroufis has mentored two kids at the Harrington House over the last two years. He started in February of 2012.
“It’s very important to have that one-on-one atmosphere,” he said. “It’s also important to make sure you’re consistent … they don’t really have a lot of people spending time with them and by being as consistent as possible, they’ll grow more accustomed to you and more familiar with you.”
Eventually, he said, things will get easier. “They will open up to you and warm up to you eventually,” he said, laughing slightly. “It’s bound to happen.” The child he mentors gets “straight A’s” in his classes, said Souroufis.
“It’s very rewarding when you can see a kid succeed even through greater challenges than what you faced because you think to yourself you must have made some impact or influence on them for them to get to where they are,” said Souroufis.