Mar. 24, 2022
By Sam Buisman – Covenant House Alaska Staff Writer
Our volunteers breathe joy into Covenant House Alaska, and no one exemplifies this better than Amelia Jeffries, whose weekly activity series remains highly anticipated and thoroughly loved by our youth.
After Amelia moved from Australia and began volunteering at Covenant House Alaska, her weekly “Activities with Amelia” has become a welcome mainstay at our Youth Engagement Center. Through rock climbing, pickup basketball, bingo and more, Amelia has fostered a true connection with our young people and her new home.
According to Amelia, she catches herself having just as much of a blast participating in the activities as the Covey youth!
“It’s been a two-way street,” said Amelia, “because not only are they having fun, but I’m having fun!”
Thanks to Amelia and her fellow volunteers, our young people have the chance to enjoy wholesome fun and make everlasting memories. Her work is visible to all of us in the smiles on our youths’ faces after Activities with Amelia.
From down under to the far north
Hailing from Perth, Australia, Amelia moved to Anchorage in May 2021 with her husband. While her VISA barred her from working in the US, she still wanted to find a way to contribute to her new community.
“I was living in this place and taking advantage of all it had to offer,” said Amelia, “but I wanted to figure out a way where I could be involved and not just take from the community but give back in a way.”
She decided that the best way to do so was to start volunteering regularly. So, Amelia asked her friends and family about volunteer opportunities in Anchorage.
Thankfully for us, they pointed Amelia towards Covenant House Alaska. She did some research online and discovered that we were looking for a volunteer to run recreational activities at our downtown Youth Engagement Center.
“It seemed like something that I could do every week to get to know the youth and feel like I was a part of the Anchorage community somehow,” recalled Amelia.
Activities with Amelia
Now with an impressive six-month tenure of weekly volunteering under her belt, Activities with Amelia has become an institution at the YEC.
Week after week, our young people get the chance to put everything else aside and just play, thanks to Amelia. She has organized activities that range from the standard schoolyard fare, like basketball and frisbee games, to the adventurous and outrageous, like rock climbing, bingo and even karaoke!
“I was pretty nervous at a point there, doing karaoke,” said Amelia, “but the youth were surprisingly confident. I don’t think that I would have had that confidence at that age!”
At the onset of her volunteering, Amelia said that she was moved by the kindness of our youth and how excited they were to spend time with her. Emotion broke into her voice as she said that she was “thankful that all the youth that I’ve been involved with have been very welcoming.”
Now, after a half-year of activities, these strong first impressions have blossomed into a strong relationship with many of our young people. Such mutual trust has enabled Amelia to have many meaningful interactions with our youth, like when one young person felt comfortable enough to help her learn to play frisbee.
“His technique and his skill were really good, and he was able to teach me how to improve,” said Amelia. “I think that was a really good thing for him to do because he was able to feel happy and confident about his own skills and then kind of show them off to me.”
A connection to Anchorage and herself
For Amelia, her volunteer work has proved to be the communal experience with Anchorage that she hoped it would. She described feeling better ingrained in her new city from her experience and learning from our youth about the wonders of Alaska.
“When they’re talking about their lives and Anchorage, I’m obviously new to Anchorage so I’ve been learning lots about Alaska — people going fishing and things like that,” said Amelia.
However, Amelia also said that volunteering at Covenant House Alaska has had a personal effect on her as well. Overcoming her trepidations to volunteer in a new country has emboldened Amelia with newfound confidence amidst a period in her life of dramatic change.
“America and Australia are very similar, but I had never pushed myself to be in situations over here that I maybe wasn’t 100% comfortable with,” said Amelia. “Being able to push yourself and put yourself in a situation that you don’t experience every day can really grow you as a person.”
Between our youth and staff, we are so gracious to have Amelia as part of our team at Covenant House Alaska. We know that our young people will love whatever the activity may be if it’s with Amelia.
We are always on the lookout for driven volunteers who are passionate about ending the experience of youth homelessness in Alaska. There are always a plethora of ways to get involved at Covenant House Alaska based on your available time and set of talents.
Amelia said that anyone on the fence about volunteering should not overlook how much they could get out of such an experience.
“I think a lot of people look at volunteering as just the volunteer giving their time and themselves to the volunteer experience,” said Amelia, “but it’s also all about what you’re gaining from that experience.”
If you would like more information about volunteering at Covenant House Alaska, visit the Volunteer page on our website here.