Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 8, 2003
Covenant House opens hearts, lives
Special to the WCR
Edmontonian Anita Schaub is completing her commitment to street youth at Covenant House Vancouver while the House welcomes Saskia Schopman, from Lethbridge, who is starting her commitment with the faith community.
After completing their college studies, both girls decided to commit one year to serving homeless street youth while living with other volunteers in community.
The faith community is a group of laymen and women who commit to live in community, to deepen their prayer life while working as full-time volunteers at Covenant House. The 13-month commitment calls on volunteers to live a simple lifestyle in community, pray daily and serve homeless youth.
Schaub discovered a brochure at St. Joseph's College describing the faith community volunteer opportunity while she was in her third year of psychology studies at the University of Alberta. She knew immediately she wanted to apply but she had to complete her final year first.
Before Schaub came to Vancouver, she imagined Covenant House to be "sort of institutional" and was surprised by the warm, clean and cozy atmosphere at the 22-bed crisis shelter. She was also surprised to learn that not only does Covenant House provide shelter, but it also offers street outreach, and daily drop-in and transitional living programs to an estimated 500 to 1,000 street youth.
The Covenant House mission statement calls upon all staff and volunteers to treat these kids - definitely a challenge to serve - with "absolute respect and unconditional love."
Schaub describes a moment that exemplified the concept of unconditional love: a young man came in to the daily drop-in during a time when young people are required to be looking for work. He sat down with Schaub under the pretext of a job search. This young man really opened up to Schaub and they had a wonderful conversation.
Not only does Covenant House provide shelter, but it also offers street outreach, and daily drop-in and transitional living programs to an estimated 500 to 1,000 street youth.
He admitted, "I really didn't come here to look for a job. I just wanted to talk."
Schaub replied: "Well, thanks for talking".
The youth replied, "Thanks for listening.
"Anytime," said Schaub.
It sounds like a simple thing - just listening - but to the kids at Covenant House, opening up to adults and trusting them with their pain is difficult.
Schaub described her experience volunteering full time at Covenant House as eye opening and life changing, saying she has learned to express herself in ways she couldn't before and feels completely enriched by her experience.
Being part of the faith community at Covenant House has given Schaub a rich and meaningful experience, learning more about street youth and homelessness than most of us will in a lifetime. She is returning to Edmonton to work with young people with behavioural problems.
As Schaub departs, Schopman - a child and youth care grad from Lethbridge Community College, begins her service as an outreach worker.
If anyone you know is interested in learning more about this volunteer opportunity, contact Sister Nancy Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604 685-5437 ext. 29.