During my last sleepover shift at the Sanctuary, we welcomed a sibling set. After getting everyone settled and into their beds, we anticipated the coming of a busy morning. I found myself caring for the youngest boy of the group. Barely a toddler, he seemed so small to me. He wrapped his thin little arms around me, and pressed his cold hands to my chest. He burrowed his head into me, intent on soaking up all of the warmth and comfort I could offer.
I walked around the Sanctuary with this tiny bundle that refused to be put down. I considered how fragile he seemed, how at odds that was with his ferocious need for attention and affection. I have to admit, it felt really wonderful to be needed so much, to be able to be the person who could supply comfort and a little breakfast for this special boy. As we roamed between the kitchen and couch, my heart also broke a little at the thought of what he must be going through, and what his journey might look like in the future. I told him how wonderful he was, what a strong, smart boy he was. It felt good to spend time with him, reassuring him, encouraging him to keep being brave and to trust that there are grownups who want him to be warm, safe, and happy. He responded by clinging to me even tighter, as if he was trying to absorb every ounce of affection and strength I could give.
Watching fellow volunteers and Amara Emergency Sanctuary staff members care for his siblings, I felt a growing sense of gratitude for everyone in the room working to meet these kids where they were, in such a vulnerable moment. What a great reminder of how important this work is.
It’s important that these kids come to a place where they can receive the attention and care they need. In this moment of uncertainty, it’s important that they know that there are people who care about them and want the best for them, and will do the hard work to look out for them amid the chaos experienced by a family in crisis. It’s important that the right people are here to greet these kids, to be a happy face in the middle of what might be their scariest day.
It may sound silly to say, but the time I spend at the Sanctuary isn’t just “a shift”. It’s the most important thing I do, it’s a crucial moment to connect and care for kids who desperately need someone to be available to them during this pivotal experience.
As I neared the end of my shift at the Sanctuary that morning, I knew that it would be hard for me to let him go, even if it meant handing him to another person who would take really good care of him. When I said goodbye and headed for the door, I felt the hardest tug in my chest, but I left feeling grateful that I was able to offer him a few hours of safety and love to fuel his journey.
Find out more about how you can make an impact as a volunteer at the Amara Emergency Sanctuary by visiting amaravolunteers.org.