Dedicated volunteers are “like family” to NYO
“It’s always nice to get out of Homer,” admitted Chloe Liang, a team leader with Youth with a Mission (YWAM), a volunteer group that has a long history with Native Youth Olympics (NYO). Although there are plenty of volunteer opportunities locally, the Homer group happily makes the four-to-five-hour drive north to support NYO behind the scenes.
“We know that the really large events need a lot of help, so it’s not a big deal for us to drive that distance because we know every extra hand helps,” Chloe elaborated. “We can come help fill the gaps and make sure everything runs smoothly and hopefully nobody is stressed.”
For about nine years, YWAM has done exactly that at both Junior and Senior NYO, in addition to dedicating their time and talents to local NYO events. YWAM is an international organization, with local groups defining their own focus; the Homer YWAM volunteers emphasize youth and Alaska Native outreach. Their dedication to Alaska Native communities is unwavering. Every year, they also volunteer for the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO), and they have distributed Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) clothing and toys in Homer and surrounding communities.
“Our organization loves to do service opportunities where we can reach Alaskans,” described YWAM Team Leader Jerome Liang, “and Alaska Native culture is really important to us because we see that the people have values that line up with our values.”
“Our YWAM volunteers are like family,” said CITC Director of Development Kelly Hurd. “They cheerfully jump in and do whatever task that needs to be done — always with a smile on their face. We are deeply grateful for their loyal partnership. NYO would simply not be the same without them.”
If you’ve been to NYO, you’ve likely seen a YWAM volunteer in action. They’re the ones acting as security, reminding kids to “walk, don’t run” in the hallways of NYO venues. They’re the ones lifting the heavy boxes and setting up registration tables and the Expo area. They’re the ones helping keep score.
Jerome spends NYO clacking away at a keyboard, making last-minute changes to score sheets.
“People are usually baffled when they ask how I volunteer,” Jerome shared. “‘You enjoy data entry?’ But I’m doing something I really enjoy that benefits others, even if they don’t see it.”
Chloe, meanwhile, likes manning the merchandise table because it gives her a chance to interact with athletes, coaches, parents, and spectators.
“Alaska Native culture is really important to [our organization] because we see that the people have values that line up with our values.”
– Jerome Liang, YWAM volunteer
“People are stopping by all the time, asking us questions, and I get to be very useful there,” she explained. “I like being useful. I can answer questions, I can help people figure out where they’re going.”
Volunteers like the ones from YWAM are the engine that keeps NYO running: They’re on the ground before anyone else, and they stay till the very end, cleaning up, taking out the trash, and doing the work that often goes unnoticed.
But it’s not all work and no play for the YWAM volunteers. They’re also big fans of the Games.
“We love watching the Games because we love watching the interaction between athletes,” said Chloe. “Watching them encourage each other, coach each other — even to their own detriment, they coach each other so the best person can get the best score. We just enjoy the atmosphere here, and we’re thankful we get to be a part of it.”
Thank you to YWAM, and to all our NYO volunteers! Learn more about how you can volunteer at NYO here. Interested in volunteering at this year’s Games, April 27 – 29? Contact Whitney Kellie at (907) 793-3277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.