Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Blayne Amson

“There’s a camaraderie among the staff who work here, but also within the SafeChoice Program – to advocate for me, to recognize the gift that I bring to the program and to acknowledge those unique understandings that I might bring.” These are just a few of the things that inspires him to stay, says Blayne Amson, whose been with YWCA for about a year – first as an intern and later as a volunteer. Also impactful has been his experiences as an advocate as well as the organization’s dedication to model their mission. In addition, Blayne is passionate about promoting inclusive and empowering behavior, especially as it relates to ablism. With 6 years of women’s studies and a selfless, compassionate personality, Blayne is a welcomed advocate in the SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program and within the organization as a whole.

While Blayne was an intern, he gained 6 college credits and the advocate training required to support those affected by domestic violence. Now, as a volunteer advocate, he finds the work more rewarding than he ever expected. “I came in here with a lot of fears about how I would be perceived by survivors who are predominantly women, and ironically I found it to be a lot more of asset that I’m a man, than a deficit,” said Blayne. Additionally, he had some fears about advocating for those affected by domestic violence, being that it’s such an intense stage of life the participants are experiencing. But, within the first few minutes of talking with those he advocates for, he’s found his fears quickly slip away and are replaced with hope and joy. It’s provided him the perspective to truly value the relationships he does have and the pride in knowing that he helps people out of abusive situations so that they can regain their passion for life.

Blayne’s not the only one who finds value in his dedication to the organization. Saron Nehf, who works with Blayne said, “He is one of the most amazing allies I have ever met. He is thoughtful, driven, educated, dedicated, compassionate and I cannot wait to see how he will rock the world we live in, in the near future. I feel blessed to have met him and strongly believe that what he brings to our work is revolutionary and priceless.”

Blayne’s contributions to the organization are vast. Beyond advocacy support, he provides strong personal testimony regarding ableism which has engaged the support of many staff members at YWCA clark county. Blayne recognized that at YWCA, he has an opportunity to educate staff about oppression as it relates to people with disabilities. As someone who spends much of his time in a wheelchair, Blayne understands first-hand what it’s like to be the target of ableism. The majority of staff at YWCA don’t have any obvious physical disabilities, so from a target/agent perspective, most staff would be considered the agent, or the person in power who is also the potential source of oppression. This dynamic naturally puts able-bodied staff in an opportune position. Just as males are in a primary position to speak out against sexism, the able-bodied are in a primary position to speak out against ableism. With such an empowering culture, YWCA Clark County is fertile soil for growing Blayne’s dreams of empowering disabled populations. He quickly discovered that compared to his experiences volunteering in numerous other agencies, he needed to do the least amount of work to enlighten people and to create change. “The path has already been blazed for me,” he said, noting YWCA’s powerful mission, wonderful staff and bold anti-discrimination statement.

YWCA Clark County’s mission to empower women, eliminate racism and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all resonates strongly with Blayne. He wakes up at 7:30 in the morning and takes 2 busses to arrive at 9:00am, but he says it’s worth the effort to come in and see the mission statement on the wall and think to himself, “yeah, me too.” Blayne admits that his work here is sometimes challenging, stressful and even draining, but with staff support, he personally feels empowered in a very unique way. “I’m given a lot of freedom while also having the ability to ask for guidance, and not being left to my own devices.” In addition, he feels secure in knowing he can bring concerns forward to his supervisor without being devalued.

Speaking of his supervisor, Lee Watts has only good things to share about Blayne, “He’s so compassionate, kind and provides a strength-based approach with the people he meets with.  I have so much gratitude for his decision to share his advocacy skills with SafeChoice. I couldn’t express it any better than a survivor who left a comment for Blayne after seeing him recently, ‘Thank you for HOPE!’ Blayne has given her and many others who have come through our doors hope for a better future—leaving here feeling empowered to change their lives. He really is an amazing advocate.”