I’m your friend: a perspective from volunteer coach Daniela Janin
“I’d like to teach kids that they can go through anything and still be whatever they wanted to be.” ~Daniela Janin, CoachArt volunteer coach
CoachArt volunteer Daniela Janin is an engineer from Argentina. She came to Los Angeles as an adult, and lives in Pasadena. When she went through a health crisis, good caregivers inspired her to find a way to give back. She spoke with us about her experience as a volunteer coach with CoachArt.
I wanted to give back
I’m a cancer survivor. I got breast cancer in 2015, then leukemia in 2016 and 17. I stopped working and went on disability. I had a bone marrow transplant for the leukemia, then I got complications on my lungs. I was sick in the hospital, and a lot of nice people came and helped me or just sat with me keeping me company, like knitting. They inspired me to help. I wanted to give back.
I started looking for volunteer opportunities, because I was still mobile — I could walk. I couldn’t breathe very well, but otherwise I was OK. So I found CoachArt online. I thought I’d like to teach kids that they can go through anything and still be whatever they wanted to be.
I did have heart and creativity
It was a little scary in the beginning. I hadn’t done this kind of volunteer work before, because I was always busy. And I was not artistic as a child. But I had started doing creative projects when I was in the hospital. I didn’t feel qualified to teach art, but I did have heart and creativity, and I thought I could teach something with that.
I got matched with Itzayana, age seven, early in 2020. The first time I met her, I asked what do you like to do, what is most important for you? I got to know her, and then tried to plan activities based on who she is and what she likes, and create that link between us. She told me she was afraid of the dark, so I got some stuff from the Dollar Tree and we created a hot air balloon lamp for her room.
So far, Itzy is the only CoachArt student I’ve worked with. We keep renewing our match. At first we met in person, but because of the pandemic, we had to switch to FaceTime. But we managed to keep doing art projects together.
I was in the hospital
And then in May 2020, after we’d worked together for a few months, I had a stroke. I lost the use of my left arm and hand, and I was in the hospital. I couldn’t meet with Itzy for a while. Her mom told me Itzy was praying for me every night. Then Itzy sent me a picture for my hospital room with a message saying put it in the window so you can see it every day. It made me cry. I loved it. She drew pictures for me every week.
And then I came back home, and Itzy and I continued our sessions. I had to explain to her that now my arm and hand don’t work, and I can’t do all the stuff I did before. But I can still tell her my ideas for projects she could do, if she was OK with that. And she said yes.
I’ve become like a big sister
We try to get the project finished in one hour. Sometimes we stay a few minutes extra if needed. And if it takes more time, then she finishes it on her own, maybe the next day, and sends me a picture of it. And I always tell her to keep the leftover materials for future projects, because I’ll make sure we use them again. This helps her understand how to recycle and reduce waste.
A sampling of things Itzy has made
I love to continue the sessions with Itzy, and I know she looks forward to spending an hour with me every week. I think Itzy just feels comfortable around me. I’ve become like a big sister. Sometimes she tells me what she does at school, and how it is with her family. And then she just paints or does the project that I have for the day.
You think this volunteer experience will be just, you know, “I’m going to donate an hour.” But for the kid it’s not just the hour. It means something else. It means it’s like a friend. I’m your friend.
We are grateful to CoachArt volunteer coach Daniela Janin for sharing her experience!
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES IMPACTED BY CHILDHOOD CHRONIC ILLNESS
CoachArt’s mission is to create a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Our vision is that one day every family impacted by chronic illness will be connected to a community of support and an opportunity to learn and grow together.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CoachArt is providing lessons online for all group activities and one-on-one lessons. Learn more about CoachArt’s online programming for kids and teens impacted by chronic illness.
CoachArt offers free art and athletic lessons to chronically ill children and their siblings between the ages of 5-18. We currently serve the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco Bay Areas, with more cities coming soon. If your child has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, we invite you to fill out a student eligibility form to learn if CoachArt is right for your child.
WAYS TO HELP
Do you have an artistic or athletic skill to share virtually with a child impacted by chronic illness? Become a CoachArt Volunteer.
Learn how you can get involved with CoachArt to help kids impacted by chronic illness.