Volunteer shows serious dedication

Beaver volunteer signs up for second year, first in memory according to rec manager

Roxanna Thompson | ACHO DENE KOE/FORT LIARD
October 9, 2014
Amy Thomas is volunteering for a second year in Fort Liard. One of her highlights to date was chaperoning the NWT's snowboarding team, that included two athletes from Fort Liard, at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaksa, in March. The team included, from back left, Stan Bertrand, Tyrone Powder, Torin Dowe, Kyle McKee, chaperone Amy Thomas and coach Nathan Ensing; front row, Alinda Edda. - photo courtesy of Amy Thomas

Amy Thomas is volunteering for a second year in Fort Liard. One of her highlights to date was chaperoning the NWT’s snowboarding team, that included two athletes from Fort Liard, at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaksa, in March. The team included, from back left, Stan Bertrand, Tyrone Powder, Torin Dowe, Kyle McKee, chaperone Amy Thomas and coach Nathan Ensing; front row, Alinda Edda. – photo courtesy of Amy Thomas

She didn’t tell anyone at the time, but Amy Thomas quickly realized that one year of volunteering in Fort Liard wouldn’t be enough.

Thomas began volunteering with the Hamlet of Fort Liard through the Frontiers Foundation’s Operation Beaver program in August 2013. She remembers the exact moment during a soccer tournament in Hay River, about three weeks after she started, when she realized she would be staying for more than one year.

“I just fell in love with the kids,” she said.

“They are so funny and so talented.”

After spending the school year volunteering, Thomas worked this summer for the hamlet as a lifeguard, and has now returned to her volunteer position. For Thomas, living and volunteering in Fort Liard combined two of her goals- living in an aboriginal community and living overseas.

After growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia, Thomas spent three years in Alice Springs in the centre of the country where a large percentage of the population is aboriginal.

“It just really opened my eyes to a lot of the social issues,” she said.

After working as a tour guide, Thomas started driving a truck for a company that provides shuttle services between aboriginal communities and Alice Springs. After seeing the communities firsthand, Thomas said she realized she wanted to live in an aboriginal community. Canada was a good fit because she understood many of the issues aboriginal people have faced in the two countries are similar, including residential schools.

Thomas’ volunteer work has centred on recreational programs. Last year, despite having minimal experience with the sport, Thomas coached soccer and supervised the gym three nights a week. This year, she expects to do more behind the scenes work while still chaperoning for soccer and other trips.

Thomas said it’s been an honour to be part of the hamlet’s recreation department.

“I think that the recreation programs are really awesome,” she said.

She’s witnessed a correlation between participation in the programs and school attendance. Athletes practice hard to be part of the teams and go to school in part because they need a 90 per cent attendance rate to be able to go on the trips, she said.

“You can really see how positive it is,” said Thomas.

Volunteering has also taken Thomas to a lot of communities outside of the hamlet including Fairbanks, Alaska, as a chaperone for the Arctic Winter Games in March, Calgary for a snowboarding clinic and Fort Simpson and Grande Prairie, Alta., for soccer, among others.

To Roslyn Gardner Firth’s knowledge, Thomas is the first Beaver volunteer to return for a second year in the hamlet.

“It’s a pleasure to have Amy volunteering in our community and I am especially pleased that she is staying for another year. Her friendliness and interest in the local culture has gained her many friends and she has boundless energy for our recreation programs,” said Gardner Firth, the hamlet’s manager of recreation and youth.