Volunteer Spotlight: Mimoh Lee

by Martha “Mimoh” Lee

Published on April 22, 2021

I first heard about Family House when I was in middle school. At the time they were building the brand new Family House near the UCSF Mission Bay campus, which was only a five-minute drive from my school, Live Oak

The way I learned about Family House was through my Uncle Hansoo. Hansoo passed away from non-smoker’s lung cancer when he was just 35 after fighting for fifteen months. My family was still recovering from his loss when I learned that Hansoo had actually created the first website for Family House, so I decided to start volunteering in part to honor his legacy. Hansoo was the kind of person that lit up a room and made everyone smile and laugh. He cared very deeply for Family House and I know that seeing Family House thrive is exactly what he would want. 

When the new building opened I began creating a relationship between Family House and my middle school at the time. We started with a pajama and toiletries drive. Live Oak families donated all kinds of things from toothbrushes to giraffe onesies. The success of the drive led to even more collaborations. 

For almost four years now Live Oak families have been hosting monthly dinners at Family House. It’s a regular part of Live Oak; different grades host a dinner each month and the parents organize the food. It is a great experience as well for some of the Live Oak students who get to run around and play with kids staying at Family House. 

However, my favorite event we hosted was bringing one of the Family House families to the Live Oak Bingo night. Every year Live Oak has the annual Family Bingo, where there’s food, bingo, and all kinds of wonderful prizes. In 2017 we were able to have Tsentol and her mom come to this event. My friends and I spent the whole afternoon playing bingo with Tsentol, chasing her around the school, and watching her jump and play in the courtyard. Over the past five years now since I started volunteering at Family House I’ve gotten to see Tsentol at numerous events and watch her grow. 

Tsentol is not the only relationship I’ve made — through volunteering I’ve built relationships with many families as well as the staff at Family House. Even as just a volunteer, Family House feels like a second home. 

After graduating from Live Oak, I wanted to continue volunteering at Family House, so I joined the high school summer volunteering program after my freshman year. My favorite part of the program was the annual Family House Carnival we helped to organize at the end. I worked a booth where kids could make their own pillows using stuffed fleece and tying knots on the ends. Throughout the day, I saw lots of kids running around with balloons and popcorn and all kinds of prizes. Family House was just filled with so much laughter and joy during the Carnival — it felt like a true community. 

The following year I became a summer intern at Family House. You could find me helping out with breakfast in the morning, planning art activities, leading groups of volunteers every Tuesday, or stocking Fozzy’s Toy Room. Being a summer intern was a great way to get to know the inner workings of the house and be able to spend more time with the families and the staff. I learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. Another summer intern was working exclusively on social media posts, there’s always tons of organizing the storage closets, and lots and lots of sanitizing. 

The best part though, was every morning I pulled out the art cart and hosted activities in the front playroom. All the kids that came through loved to play with the vast collection of stickers and colored markers — and I probably spent several hours each day playing in the toy kitchen eating lots of delicious (plastic) pancakes. 

Mimoh (left) helps deliver meals to families at Family House San Francisco, February 2021

Unfortunately because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t able to continue being an intern like last summer, however, I have had the pleasure of still volunteering at Family House. Like the hospitals and other institutions throughout the city, Family House was hit hard by the pandemic and a lot of the normal events had to be canceled or switched to online. Basic things like sharing the communal kitchens were no longer a possibility, so Family House staff began getting catered meals to serve to families.

Last August (2020), I started volunteering again in person by helping to deliver these meals directly to the rooms. Although it is not the same as pre-covid times, getting to see people’s faces and have conversations with everyone at the house is incredibly exciting. Despite all that has been going on, Family House has still managed to maintain some normality and be the welcoming and homely place it always has been. You can still find me, Mondays through Thursdays, delivering meals. 

Even though I am graduating high school this year and will be attending college in the fall, I hope to stay involved in Family House any time I’m home. The house has been a huge part of my life and one of the most important ways I’ve been able to stay connected to my uncle after his passing. The name Family House is so perfectly fitting because everyone there truly feels like it is a home. 

To any high school students reading this — I highly recommend getting involved and the high school summer volunteering program is a great place to start or, get some family/friends together and host a meal once the pandemic is over. 

Thanks for reading!

Martha “Mimoh” Lee is currently a high school senior who has volunteered at Family House for the past five years. It is through the generosity of time and compassion of volunteers, like Mimoh, that help Family House provide a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing physical comfort and emotional support, free from financial concerns.

If you’d like to learn more about how to volunteer at Family House, contact Karen Banks at kbanks@familyhouseinc.org, or click here for more volunteer information.

Family House San Francisco is an independent non-profit organization led by a professional staff and board of directors dedicated to providing residential services free-of-charge to qualifying families. Since we receive no financial support from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, or any other public entity, we rely solely on the generous contributions of individuals, corporations, and foundations. 

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