Mary Jane Fate, Mother to Many, 1933-2020

Aurora Ford Impact Updates

Our state recently said goodbye to a beloved pioneer and luminary, Mary Jane Fate. She was an Athabascan elder, Alaskan trailblazer, and mother to our own Covenant House Alaska board member, Julie Fate Sullivan. She passed away peacefully with her husband of 65 years, Bud, by her side on April 10th. She was 86.

Mary Jane was born in Rampart, a small village on the Yukon River, about 100 miles northwest of Fairbanks, in 1933. According to her cousin, Georgiana Lincoln, “she babysat, I think, about half of the village of Rampart”, which may have been an early indication of the mother figure she would become to countless kids and young people throughout her life.

Born on Sept. 4, 1933, Mary Jane grew up living a subsistence life on the Yukon River where comforts were rare and survival was paramount. During the winter trapping season, in order to follow the animals, they sheltered in tents. During the summer, they fished and preserved as much as possible. Her childhood came with adversity that taught her the importance of being surrounded by a strong community, and throughout her life, she maintained a deep connection to the land, her Athabascan culture, and Alaska Native people – a love she showed through action.

Mary Jane graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe Boarding High School in 1952 and went on to attend college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, one of the first Alaska Native women to do so. She married Hugh “Bud” Fate, a Korean War veteran who later became a dentist, in 1954 after he proposed to her on a moose hunt. Theirs became a love that stood the test of time, and a partnership rooted in their shared drive to take care of people and to make the world better.

Julie remembers, “Whenever there was a young person who needed help or a safe place to stay, mom and dad opened our home, wrapped them in love, and helped raised them up.” More than just shelter and love, Mary Jane knew it was important to believe in young people, and in moments when they might feel lost, to give them a place to start. “She’d bring them in, set them on their feet and say, ‘Ok, this is what you’re going to do.’”

Even while raising a family and other kids who needed a home, Mary Jane’s life was an extensive timeline of impressive achievements, though none was simply for the sake of accolades. Rather, Mary Jane saw ways in which her community, especially young people, were struggling and she spent her life laying the groundwork for change.

She was one of the few women who successfully lobbied Congress for the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, she was the first president of her ANCSA village corporation and served every role on that board over 40 years, she helped found the Tundra Times newspaper and, with Bud, the Fairbanks Native Association. She was the first woman co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives; the first Alaska Native women to serve on the Alaska Judicial Council; the first Native person appointed by the President to U.S. Arctic Research Commission, and; she co-founded the Breast Cancer Detection Center for which she received a Presidential award for bringing mammograms to rural Alaska.

“She was an activist during those days, though she would never have referred to herself that way. During the 70s and the Civil Rights Movement, she was right there, giving a voice to other people.” In just one example of this steady determination to create change, Mary Jane co-founded and served as the third President of the North American Indian Women’s Association (NAIWA), which was made up of women representing 43 different tribes from 23 states. Beginning in 1977, she spent more than a year heading a federal program to produce the Special Needs of Handicapped Indian Children and Indian Women’s Problems report that was presented to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The report was a 294-page document compiling interviews and data acquired by 28 members of NAIWA who agreed to be trained as researchers for purposes of the project. They and Mary Jane spent months traveling the country to meet and interview Indian people and develop an understanding of the scope of issues impacting women and children with disabilities. Based on what they found, the report made recommendations to the federal government on programs and policies to help. That’s the kind of dedication she had to making change possible. “She shined a spotlight on domestic violence, conditions on reservations and in villages, abuse and neglect, before people were talking about those things,” Julie says. “She spoke to the issues happening to women, and really, all the same things kids at Covey are survivors of.”

“I still am contacted by people who she encouraged and helped to believe in themselves,” Julie continues. “She was so passionate about youth, and about education. She mentored countless young people before ‘mentorship’ was really a thing.”

Mary Jane was known far and wide for her laughter, intelligence, and her loving spirit, which shined through her until her very last moment. She is survived by her husband and three daughters, and countless others who became her family because she was there for them when it most mattered.

Here at Covey we believe, as Mary Jane did, that to help young people accomplish everything they dream of doing, we must first be that consistent, caring presence that says, “I believe in you, even when you’re not perfect, even if you need time, we will get there together.” Mary Jane was carrying out our mission before it was ever even put on paper. Her years of work and advocacy on behalf of young people has made everything we do possible, and she gave the world to Julie, who has been a quiet but powerful force for Covey for many years. We are so glad she was here on this earth for so many young people to learn from and lean on and we will do our best to be carriers of her legacy of service for as long as there are young people who need love.

Our Board Member, Julie Sullivan, with her mom, Mary Jane Fate in 2010 at the Raven’s Ball, after Mary Jane was given the ANTHC Presidents Award for her work to bring mammograms to rural Alaska.

Passage House Mothers Hunker Down

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Becoming a mother is a life-changing event. It changes your perceptions of the world, your responsibilities, your financial needs, your priorities, and even the way you love others. Some are more prepared for the changes that pregnancy and motherhood bring while others are less prepared. Imagine becoming a mother as a young teen who is also experiencing homelessness. Over the past several weeks, our Passage House mothers have also had to go through the stress of COVID-19 and have faced the challenges of loss of employment and the closure of childcare facilities. Like everyone else during this time, our young mothers are navigating the changes that have taken place in day-to-day life.

During Hunker Down, two babies have been born to Passage House mothers—one born at the beginning and one born this past Monday. It has been an especially hard time for them because they were not able to have the usual experience that new mothers expect at the birth of their first child. Usually after a birth, family and friends visit together after the delivery in the hospital room, but because they’re only able to have 1 person in at a time, this happy moment looked a lot different. “It’s not the normal celebration people are used to. Passage House was able to send them flowers but even that was difficult because the hospitals are trying to get people in and out more quickly, so coordinating that delivery was not simple,” Passage House Coordinator, Gena Graves says, “and usually after returning home from a birth, Passage House facilitates the bonding time between the father and the baby. Usually, the father would be able to visit Passage House, but because of health safety, we aren’t allowing visitors.”

During the first couple of weeks of the Hunker Down order, one mother had a toddler living with her at Passage House. Staff quickly realized that communicating to a child not to touch others is really difficult. Because exposure is limited as much as possible, that mother and her child have been temporarily placed in a separate living situation. Besides a huge increase in cleaning and the new babies, the biggest change has been the inability to connect to other family members. Staff go home to their families after their shift, but these youth can’t, which makes them feel frustrated and more isolated. Because the girls are encouraged to work to create support systems outside of the home, many of them are experiencing feelings of loneliness and disconnection. One young girl in particular had close bonds with family from her home village and she has not been able to connect with them.

Another great loss is the Women’s Leadership Conference that usually takes place at this time each year. This is the first time in 22 years that it hasn’t happened. The professional style conference has been a great way for past, current, and potential residents to reconnect with their roots. It is an experience designed to help moms feel empowered and rejuvenated while connecting them to others in the community who can provide tools for success. Gena Graves says, “Overall, it has been extremely challenging to connect with our alumni, even virtually, because not everyone has the same internet access or technology access. We’ve been able to do some food box deliveries to our families, but we haven’t really been able to interact.”

Though the young mothers at Passage House find refuge in the housing and program, they are having a hard time emotionally. These young ladies are some of the strongest individuals and mothers you will ever meet, doing everything they can for the health and safety of their families. But, they still need the support and guidance from our staff to reach stability and independence. You can help them and their families by purchasing one of the special packages being sold to raise funds for the Passage House Program. These are available to purchase until the end of day today at 11:59 pm. You also have the opportunity to make a $10 donation to register for our Virtual Mother’s Day Tea event until Saturday, May 9, the day before event. Purchase gift packages and event registration by clicking HERE.

April Cornerstone Donor Spotlight: Wells Fargo

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Founded in 1852, Wells Fargo’s vision is to meet the financial needs of customers and help them succeed financially. With $1.9 trillion in assets, they now have 7,400 locations, over 13,000 ATMs, digital platforms, call centers, and offices in 32 countries and territories. Wells Fargo came to Alaska in 1883 and employs 540 Alaskans while also supporting several non-profit efforts throughout the state.

The Wells Fargo Foundation has a powerful philanthropic focus, targeting three critical issues facing individuals, families, and communities in America: housing affordability, financial health, and small business growth. In 2019, Wells Fargo donated $455 million to over 11,000 national and local non-profits focused on creating system change and economic development for underserved communities, “we use our philanthropic resources and business expertise to address complex societal issues to pave a path to stability and financial success for the underserved,” states Judith Crotty, Community Development Manager and Vice President of Wells Fargo.

One of the complex societal issues Wells Fargo helps to navigate is the issue of youth homelessness in Alaska. Due to a combination of factors, children in Alaska are 56% more likely to be abused and neglected than the national average, resulting in trauma and oftentimes serious life threatening situations. The prevalence of youth homelessness and the ability to access proper mental health resources is a unique, local issue. To bring awareness to this issue and to support the work we do to help at-risk youth in our community, Judith Crotty has been an active Covenant House Alaska Board Chair and Board Member; she has also participated in the Executive Edition Sleep Out for the past 6 years—every time, she has surpassed her fundraising goal, “I have been committed to Covenant House Alaska for so many years because I truly believe in the effectiveness of their programs and the strength of their leadership. They are welcoming and respectful of all youth. They provide shelter from the storm that these youth are facing.”

In addition to having Judith as an active Board Member, we have several other volunteers who come to us from Wells Fargo to fulfill various needs. Currently we have Rights of Passage Mentor, Mary Michaelsen, who has been an amazing influence on the youth who are working towards independent living situations and yoga teacher, Shep Delolli, who has been offering yoga to youth and staff since 2018. Over the years, several volunteers have come in to do a variety of things, like serving meals to youth, engaging youth in activities, preparing soup for donation, providing financial education, and making blankets for youth to receive on Christmas morning. In addition to working for Wells Fargo, all of these volunteers have in common the belief that, “Covenant House’s youth teach us compassion and courage.”

The Wells Fargo philosophy of “responsible and responsive” is something we have seen exemplified in how they show up to aid our community in times of need. The positive impact is felt by many. They have been making an annual contribution to Covenant House Alaska since we opened our doors 31 years ago. From financial support to the investment of time and other resources, they continue to be a solid supporter of Anchorage’s youth who find themselves experiencing homelessness. Without hesitation, they join us in our mission to provide shelter from the storm.

If your organization would like to know more about how to become a cornerstone sponsor of Covenant House Alaska, please contact Director of Development, Joe Hemphill, at jhemphill@covenanthouseak.org.

We Love Our Volunteers!

cha-dev Events, Mentor, Volunteer Stories

It’s National Volunteer Week and each year, we take time to recognize the amazing volunteers who support the youth, programs and services at Covenant House Alaska. We have roughly 50 volunteers who consistently dedicate time each week throughout the year. Normally, we use this week to gather with volunteers, shower them with kind words and small tokens of appreciation, and thank them in various ways. But, with the recent changes due to COVID-19, we began to hunker down. About six weeks ago, we closed our doors to all volunteers and transitioned many of our staff to work from home situations where possible. Volunteering has looked quite a bit different as we creatively engage current volunteers virtually for the time being. We continue to accept applications for on-site volunteering once things return to ‘normal’ and it is deemed safe to do so.

Current volunteers have stepped up in a variety of ways so that they can continue to connect with the youth they see every week at each of our sites. Each month,we host a mentor activity night, where Rights of Passage mentors gather with youth for a fun, relationship-building activity, such as standup comedy nights,  cooking together, snow tubing trips, and more. Now that gathering in person is not an option, mentors have gotten together with youth by Zoom. This past mentor activity night was a virtual one, where youth and mentors played Pictionary together! Other volunteers like the Crisis Response Canines have been sending over photos of the dogs that the youth have grown quite attached to. They even send sweet messages along with the photos for the youth to read. Many of our volunteers have also supported youth and staff through notes of encouragement, our Amazon Wish List, or meals. 

Mentor Night Pictionary
Alix of the Crisis Response Canines staying safe & healthy!

One thing that is required to safely coordinate volunteers is staff. Because we have been reduced in our on-site staff numbers, it’s been difficult to figure out different ways to support volunteer efforts, but the CHA staff have created some new ideas: Passage House, our transitional living home for pregnant and parenting young women, requested new curtains for all of their bedrooms. Education & Employment asked for virtual webinars or videos about life skills, which has actually picked up traction from interested volunteers even outside of Alaska. “Being forced to think about virtual offerings has been difficult, but it will prepare us to utilize these tools more in the future to improve our overall volunteer program,” Volunteer Coordinator, Holly Payne comments.

If you are interested in volunteering, check out the updated “Give Time” portion of our website. Although we aren’t processing new volunteers right now, we are still happy to receive applications and speak about ways to contribute virtually. If you have any ideas that you’d like to contribute about how you would like to be engaged as a volunteer, please let us know by emailing volunteer@covenanthouseak.org.

Covenant House Alaska Staff: First Responders to COVID-19

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Keeping 140 vulnerable adolescents hunkered down with 6 feet between them at all times is not an easy task. Our staff have become first responders to COVID-19, protecting our most vulnerable population while also protecting others in our beloved community. Keeping youth from exposure and keeping them informed is a matter of life and death; “although young people don’t usually die from this virus, you can save others who do have a higher risk of dying by staying inside and avoiding contact with others,” staff remind youth every day.

Our youth are not experiencing the outcomes of COVID-19 in the same way that other young people are, because they are also experiencing the personal crisis of homelessness. As they struggle to adapt to this new way of life, we recognize the importance of providing shelter and a healthy environment to keep them inside as much as possible. To do so and flatten the curve, all hands are on deck, though some hands are from a distance. One frontline staff shared their feelings about their experience during this time, “everyone is screened upon entering the building and we keep them inside unless it is absolutely necessary that they go out, but like many young people, our youth haven’t really understood the severity of the virus. That is one of the scariest things about coming in to the building to work each day. As much as we wish we could make them stay inside at all times, it is just unrealistic—they have jobs and errands to take care.”

One fear youth have right now is not being able to see or get in touch with their families—this has been especially difficult for youth whose families are also homeless. They’ve had more difficulty in maintaining employment because of the closure of the bus line, while those looking for employment have been limited to finding something within walking distance. They’ve had limited connection to others—normally, the building is bustling with admin staff, mentors, donors, and warm volunteers who come in to support youth with a variety of offerings, such as therapy dogs, regular art classes, birthday celebrations, guided meditation, music lessons, hot soup, clothing, conversation, and more. But lately, it is quiet because those people are no longer entering the building. Except for a skeletal group of direct care staff and residents, it has been empty. Staff and youth are relying on themselves and each other.

Staff are working hard to fill the big holes that are being felt in the absence of outside community supporters. Looking on the brighter side of things, one youth said “now that I can’t go to the mall to hang out with friends or go to the movies or even see my friends at school, I have realized that there actually are fun staff and other residents to hang out with in the building. I used to think I had to get out of the building to have a good time and be around friends, but now I see that I have friends all around me at Covey.” Earlier this week, youth got together to make crafts to show gratitude to staff. One youth drew flowers and hearts around a message saying, “Thank you 4 not forgetting us, we love you!” Many youth have mentioned how thankful they are that Covey’s doors are still open to those needing shelter in a time where no one else is welcoming in strangers, and have even noticed staff being more attentive to their needs.

Like many other organizations in the community, we are facing an unprecedented and unusual situation. And we’ve grappled with a number of questions: How do you manage this many youth in one place, contending with each individual’s needs and desires? How do you keep them happy and feeling hopeful for the future? How do you show them the love they need to get through this situation while they also work to overcome other obstacles? How do you let them know that they will be ok?

When we look at what our staff do to keep our youth calm and safe, we see a tremendous effort and relentless passion. They have multiplied outreach efforts to retrieve youth from outdoor camps and congregational areas where physical distancing is impossible and safety gear is not available. They have helped engage youth with activities like group workout routines, tie dying t-shirts, playing games, and making TikTok videos. They are providing meals to youth who do not live on site by implementing a food service grab-and-go pick-up through the café door at our youth engagement center. They have continued to coordinate education and employment for youth by providing learning activities in the computer lab and they have coordinated homework delivery systems with ASD that work well for youth who are in school. They have made themselves available to cover shifts ranging over a 24-hour period every single day of the week. Our doors have not once closed, our soup pot has not once gone empty, and every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) continues to be provided each day.

Staff continue to show up to keep youth safe, healthy, and entertained, even if it means leaving their own families and putting themselves at risk. Back at home, they are missing out on hugs from their own children just in case they might have been exposed to coronavirus at work, to ensure their children’s safety. They are shifting their schedules as needed, working overnights even though they usually work day shifts. While they watch the majority of people around the world stay home, they show up each day with their masks on, ready to care for 140 youth each day, while also helping each other. Stop and consider that our front line staff have been coming to work every day, to be sure youth in our community continue to have a safe place to sleep, food to eat, and access to a shower & clean clothes. Please help us continue our work. Give what you can at www.coveycares.org.

Volunteer Spotlight: Mentor Mary Michaelsen

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Mary and her mentee, Zee, making mac&cheese at Rights of Passage.

It was Christmas time of 2018 when Mary first came into Covenant House Alaska’s Youth Engagement Center. It was an Adopt-A-Day event with her company, Wells Fargo; they served lunch and played fun games with youth and staff. During this event, Mary was able to sit down and talk with the youth as well as the staff. She learned about some of CHA’s other programs and volunteer opportunities—one being the mentorship program at Rights of Passage. It was shortly after that event she submitted a mentor application. She began her mentorship in March of 2019.

When asked why she wanted to become a Rights of Passage mentor, she replied, “I have 2 little sisters, one is 13 and the other is 22, who still live back in the Midwest. I’m still really close with them and teach them a lot of things young people need to know and I’m always there if they need to talk. When I realized that the young people at Covenant House and ROP are lacking that relationship, it made me want to step in; all kids need—and should have—that relationship.” Rights of Passage mentors commit to 2 years of service in that role, in which they attend monthly group outings with ROP residents and staff while also consistently supporting an individual youth they are matched with. Part of the support that mentors are expected to provide to their mentee is sharing knowledge and expertise with youth, that will give them applicable skills as they transition to independent living. As a financial education expert, Mary was able to give her mentee tips on money management—everything from credit establishment, investing, and budgeting. Mary’s engagement in her work and love for her community has recently gained her the honor of becoming part of the 2020 class of Top 40 Under 40; this group of individuals are recognized as the top professionals in the state who have demonstrated not only excellence in their field but a deep commitment to their community. 

Mary’s mentee, Zee, recently moved out on her own and is living alone in her own apartment—Zee says it feels really great to be able to have her own place and make it her own. During the time they spent together over the past year, Mary was able to see Zee through some great milestones: Because Zee’s favorite food is wings, Mary took her out to celebrate her birthday at Wing Stop; it was Zee’s first time going to Wing Stop and now she LOVES going there. Mary was also able witness Zee’s excitement and to wish her and her family congratulations when Zee’s sister gave birth to a healthy baby. Another favorite moment of Mary’s was actually one of the first times she and Zee had ever hung out. She went with Zee to an art gallery downtown to help her hang her art up for a First Friday event, “Zee is such an amazing artist. She was very excited to finally be able to show her work in a gallery. It was just so nice to be there and see her in that environment. The gallery owners were so impressed and pleased with how much work and care she had put into it.”

So far in her mentorship experience, she has appreciated the activities facilitated by Rights of Passage staff because they are a great way for mentors to really get to know the youth, “they have had quite a bit of fun stuff that I’ve been able to go to. Just to name a few, they’ve had a retreat, a camping trip, and actually, my very first activity was an outing to Dave & Busters. It didn’t even feel like I was volunteering because it was just so much fun. We even broke into teams and competed. It brought me back to being a kid. It just felt like I was hanging out.” Another thing that Mary really appreciated throughout the year were the classes that Covenant House Alaska hosted to learn more about at-risk youth. Mary took a day off work to attend an all-day class for volunteers and staff on Youth Mental Health and First-Aid. She loved it because she learned a lot of helpful information, but also because she got to hear the perspectives of people who work with the youth every day, “seeing everyone who works at Covenant House and how passionate they are is amazing. Just being able to be a part of that is very rewarding for me.”

Mary has just recently completed her first year as a mentor and is looking forward to her second year. In reflection, she says, “Being a mentor requires me to put myself out there while also letting it be on the youth’s time. It takes time to build those relationships; sometimes mentors may not even be paired with a youth for the first year or so, just depending on whether or not they click with anyone. I’m glad I was matched with a youth quickly. Overall, I feel like I’m still pretty new and there’s a lot more to be involved with. There’s a deeper level of engagement that can be done.” Emily Weimer, an ROP staff, is impressed by Mary’s ability to connect with youth and appreciates the influence she has had, “Mary is very outgoing and open. She encouraged one young lady to go outside who had never really gone out before. She also showed her mentee, who was ensconced in street culture, that there was much more to Alaska than that. Mary has a creative heart and a strong spirit. She has shown tremendous follow-through that has made a great impression on youth.”

How to Tend the Garden When You Can’t Volunteer.

cha-dev Events, Volunteer Stories

With the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to our community, we know that many people  feel compelled to help in any way they can to flatten the curve and to assist people who need it most right now. It has been amazing to see the quick response of people in our community—and across the nation—stepping up to help in any way they can. Many others are still searching for ways to help while maintaining safety.

Here are some things you can do to support us and other organizations in safe, effective ways:

  1. Ask 10 friends to like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @covenanthouseak.

2. Participate in our “Happiness Is…” project on Instagram stories.

3. Share your favorite Covenant House Alaska story/memory with us by  direct message on Facebook or by email: development@covenanthouseak.org (subject line:  FAVORITE STORY)

4. Read some stories on our blog page and then leave thoughtful questions or comments.

5. Arrange a food delivery by contacting development@covenanthouseak.org.

6. Learn about other organizations in our community helping to serve others, like Food Bank of Alaska, Beans Café, Brother Francis Shelter, AWAIC, Seeds of Change, St. Francis House Food Pantry, Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center, and Grow North Farm.

7. Draw an image of spring or hope and share it with us on social media by tagging @covenanthouseak

8. Write notes of encouragement to our youth and staff. Mail them to: Covenant House Alaska, Attention: Carlette Mack, 755 A St. Anchorage, Alaska 99501

9. Shop our wish list on Amazon 

10. Go to www.coveycares.org to make a donation online.

We feel so blessed to be part of a community that invests so much care in our youth and in other organizations who share our values. To us, happiness is serving Anchorage’s most vulnerable population—especially during this difficult and uncertain time when we don’t know what tomorrow holds.

Volunteer Spotlight: Cultivating the Mind with Bhante Suyama

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Bhante has lived in Anchorage for two years now, where all of his time is spent volunteering. He reaches out to organizations throughout the community who could potentially benefit from participating in guided meditation. On Tuesdays, he volunteers at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center; there, he teaches a class called “Evolved Thinking”. Earlier this month, he began teaching meditation at Anchorage Pioneer House.

Bhante began volunteering at Rights of Passage (ROP) in June of 2019 offering guided meditation on Thursday evenings. For many of the ROP youth, this has been their introduction to meditation. Eric Ditzler, ROP evening staff, attends the mediation sessions with youth and comments, “over the past 10 months, I have really seen a difference in the way youth behave. They are calmer and seem to think more clearly about issues they are facing. The youth look forward to meditation every week”.

When asked about his experience interacting with ROP youth, he said:

“The youth are not unlike the youth who would come to temple in Sri Lanka. What I see in their eyes is a desire to help themselves and they are looking for something to guide them. What I teach is not so much a religious foundation or spiritual one, but my task is to encourage them. Whatever happens in their life, I’m there for them. Some of them like to ask me questions and several of them are there weekly when they can be. In my practice we have a saying, “gradual training, gradual progress.” I just want to inspire and encourage them to develop their own path through life. “Find time for me” is something I always tell the kids—we are so conditioned in this world, from the moment we are born to come out of our selves. I encourage the youth to just find time for themselves, whether it be through silent reflection at the end of the day, journaling, or going for a walk.”

Bhante is very appreciative of being able to provide tools that the youth can take and utilize in their daily lives and finds it very rewarding. He believes firmly in the saying “do your best and without expectation.” He says he has a lot of optimism for the youth’s futures because, even though they are in a difficult time of their lives, it’s a great age to show support and provide a positive outlet and relationship.

About Bhante

Bhante was raised in Illinois, where he attended a Buddhist temple. After years of practice, Bhante began his monkhood, moving to Sri Lanka to practice and become a monk. He moved into monastic life 7 years ago, “I made meditation practice part of my daily life and then eventually everything in my life formed around the meditation. It was a very slow process that sort of revealed itself over time.”

When Bhante isn’t guiding others through meditation, he likes to journal. He says it is a way for him to see his evolution and how he changes—to see his impermanence—and reminds him to be open to change and new things. He is interested in astrophysics and cosmos and loves learning about science, astronomy, and history. To do so, he checks a lot of books out from the library on the subjects. He also enjoys visiting local arts shows to see the talent in Anchorage.

COVID-19 Update from Covenant House Alaska

cha-dev Impact Updates

At Covenant House Alaska, our commitment to our mission is only increased during uncertain times such as these.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the unique risks that youth experiencing homelessness are facing right now:

-Every young person who walks through our doors, simply by nature of needing to be here, has already experienced trauma. Uncertainty like what we are all dealing with right now exacerbates this for them.

-Sleeping outside or in crowded shelters makes youth more vulnerable to infections like flu, colds and other serious health conditions.

-Young people need a consistent, nutritious diet to help them stay healthy, which is unavailable to youth experiencing homelessness.

-Our youth are, after all, still young and still growing. That means physically, psychologically, emotionally, and cognitively, it is very important to mitigate the kinds of traumatic experiences that can complicate this crucial growth.

What we’re doing:


-We are monitoring the research and recommendations from the CDC, Covenant House International, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention, and our local and state governments.

-We are maintaining a stock of emergency supplies (we Alaskans know about earthquakes, after all) that will last several weeks including food, linens, hand sanitizers, cleaning materials, medicines, and more.

-In addition to our regular cleaning processes, we are making sure our staff communicate best practices on handwashing, ‘covering your cough’ and keeping our space as clean as possible to youth on a daily basis.

-We will rely on our own staff to continue essential services.

-We have offered training for our administrative staff, who do not have direct care experience, so that if necessary they are able and comfortable to step in and support our frontline coworkers.

-Our Emergency Plan includes remote work where possible, minimal staffing (essential personnel only), and cancellation of all work travel, whether international or domestic.

-We have revised our youth intake process to include recommended screening questions to better determine exposure.

-If a youth presents with symptoms or has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed or is symptomatic, they will be isolated while our staff follows the direction of local healthcare partners.

-Just as importantly, we are going to maintain good spirits for our youth who are feeling so uncertain. We are fortunate to have a number of characters among our staff, including our Senior Program Officer who has now recorded six (quite silly) cover songs originally by artists from The Police to Nirvana on good handwashing and self-quarantining practices.

What YOU can do:

We love our volunteers, and visitors from our community who drop off donations. But, for the time being, our policy is that only staff enter the building, with the exception of a few volunteer activities that are already slated. We are not on-boarding any new volunteers at this time, and we ask that donations, including soup, not be brought to our programs.

However, we do still need your support and there are still items our youth need on a daily basis. If you would like to support us during these uncertain times, you can make a cash donation here on our website, or find our Amazon Wishlist here and order items to be delivered to us.

We are so grateful to our community for supporting us so we can support our youth, most especially when times are scary for them and uncertain for all of us. Thank you for everything. Be safe, Alaska!

A Letter from our Executive Director, Alison Kear

cha-dev Impact Updates

To our Covenant House Alaska family, donors, and supporters,

We are thinking of you and your loved ones, and all who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the still-unfolding ramifications our communities are facing in response.

Like other agencies around the country, Covenant House Alaska is taking steps to help prevent the spread of the virus while doing everything we can to support the health, safety and well-being of our youth, staff, and volunteers.

We are asking that our community members not visit our programs at this time and, in lieu of tangible donation items you might typically bring, consider a cash donation instead or a purchase from our Amazon Wishlist that can be sent directly to our shelter.

Our dedication to serving youth experiencing homelessness is only reinforced by these unprecedented circumstances. The best wisdom I have heard so far is that we should take this opportunity to slow way down, take care of ourselves and each other (from a distance, in many cases) and above all, to practice calm and kindness. When we come out the other side of this, it will be with a new perspective–a new appreciation for our support systems, families and all the people who love us.

Many youth come to Covenant House Alaska precisely because these support systems are not present in their lives. Our mission and privilege is to be there for them, as we know they will someday be there for others. Due to school and work closures, many of our youth are feeling a sense of uncertainty that’s extra scary for a young person who has had little control or routine in their early lives. We are doing our best to be a source of consistency and strength and your support means more now than ever in allowing our direct care staff to keep our youth safe and healthy.

Be good to one another, and thank you for always holding our youth in your hearts.

Alison Kear