Below is VOA Alaska’s June 2023 Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.
Happy Pride! At VOA Alaska, we celebrate pride every day with the youth and families in our care. In fact, over a quarter of the youth we serve identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Championing their wellness is woven into the fabric of who we are as an organization.
LGBTQ+ youth are not inherently prone to mental health challenges or substance use because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—but because of who they are, they often endure mistreatment and stigmas in their daily lives. Youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
Most LGBTQ+ young people want mental health care but are not able to get it. When they do find safe and affirming care, they thrive.
At VOA Alaska, LGBTQ+ youth are reaching meaningful goals in their treatment journey. They are reducing their mental health symptoms and substance use, gaining confidence, learning to love themselves, building healthy relationships, improving in schoolwork, getting their driver’s licenses, and growing into independent young adults.
But we have more to learn. To be an ally for our LGBTQ+ youth, we must remain honest, humble, and curious as we educate ourselves, each other, and our community.
What does being an ally mean to you?
“Being an ally means caring and supporting the individual person. Building relationships based on character, kindness, respect, and basic humanity.” – Sarah Weber, Family Support Coordinator
“To me allyship means my community taking the time to learn and understand the struggles that I may face as a gay man. Allyship would be standing with me and other LGBTQ+IA2 members as we work to have the same rights as everyone else.” – Brian Belcher, Supportive Housing Case Manager
“It means being a safe space for LGBTQ+ people. I try to create an environment on my team to have these types of conversations, like how to be a better ally or how to support families who are navigating this with their young people. It also means constantly learning and growing myself and examining my own privilege and biases.” – Jackie Wallen, Program Director of School-Based Services.
“Allyship is an act of love and recognition. It requires educating yourself to understand the undue hardships that groups of people face due to marginalization, even when you don’t belong to those groups yourself. It also means drawing on your own privilege and the voice it offers you, to stand up for the rights and wellbeing of those marginalized communities.” – Madeline Fodor, HR and Admin Coordinator
All year long, VOA Alaska is committed to being an ally for young Alaskans and their families. We hope that you will join us in wrapping our arms around them, supporting them, validating them, and loving them.
VOA Alaska Awarded ‘Outstanding Peer Support Organization’
VOA Alaska was recognized as an Outstanding Peer Support Organization during the 2023 Healing Kinships: Alaska Peer Support Conference, which was held June 6-7, 2023. The award is dedicated to organizations that go above and beyond in the growth, empowerment, integration, and employment of Peer Support Specialists and integrating peer support services.
Be a Sponsor of Hope by Sponsoring a Camper!
VOA Alaska is bringing back Camp Hope this summer! Camp Hope is a NO COST prevention-led program which cultivates hope and healing for youth, particularly those at risk for substance use or behavioral health concerns.
Help us keep Camp Hope free for our families! All field trips, lunch, snacks, and daily learning activities are provided at no cost to campers.
Partner Recognition: George and Stephanie Suddock Foundation
With connection as a core value of VOA Alaska, we love making new friends, collaborating with our peers, and building new partnerships. This month, VOA is pleased to recognize a new partnership with the George and Stephanie Suddock Foundation!
The Foundation recently invested in VOA’s community services, recognizing the important work we do and the opportunity to have an even greater impact together. Thank you, George and Stephanie Suddock Foundation, for your efforts to improve our shared community!