What Does It Take to Volunteer with Our Ark?
Our Ark’s greatest mission is to help the community foster more compassion toward Thurston County’s homeless youth. When we show these kids we care, they are more likely to start caring for themselves. If you possess the following traits, you might be ready to start volunteer street outreach with Our Ark.
The number one most important trait of any Our Ark volunteer is their ability to be consistent. It usually takes two years to build a genuine, trusting connection with a young person living on the street. These kids come from broken homes and have harrowing histories full of abuse, neglect, and betrayal. Nothing counts more than seeing the same face week after week.
This work takes heart. It demands empathy. We have to meet these kids right where they’re at, and sometimes it’s just hard to see a human, especially one so young, living such a tough life. You have to be ready to listen to a person tell a story, and truly listen to that story without judgment. You have to imagine what it would be like if you or your child or your sibling had had those experiences. You have to know in your heart that no one deserves to live without love.
Kids on the street don’t change overnight. Our work is about empowering these kids to the point where they see the value in their own lives and want to make choices that build their self-reliance. This takes time. They may take steps forward and often take steps back.
The trait that underpins all others is a genuine belief that these kids can change. Their belief in their own self-reliance starts when we believe they can change their circumstances. We demonstrate that belief to them by helping them take steps to reintegrate and find a home.
Individuals who have experienced homelessness themselves and/or who have military experience are often excellent candidates for street outreach.
We need more volunteers. The more volunteers we have working street outreach, the more people in the community can see what’s actually going on in the lives of homeless youth. Most of the community only internalizes what they can see from inside their cars: messy camps and people begging. They hear stories of violence and theft and drug use.
Don’t get me wrong. The conditions these folks live in are rough, to say the least. But we need everyone to start recognizing that each and every member of our community, housed or unhoused, possesses innate humanity and deserves love. Our work spreads that message and begins to bring love into lives where it’s lacking.
Not ready to do street outreach? That’s okay. There are other ways to contribute to Our Ark’s mission.
Any way you can help has the potential to change the lives of homeless youth!