Perhaps Amberlee Erdmann’s desire to help others began with her days as a Brownie. It has grown into an undeniable urge to make a difference. In her teens, she went with other volunteers to Mexico where they assisted orphanages and built ten houses. For academic excellence at university, she was invited to join the “Global Key International Honor Society”. She was Miss Alberta in 2007 and Miss Global Canada in 2008.
Formal training as a social worker was a natural choice. Her degree practicum was spent at the Penticton Okanagan College Women’s Resource Center. Now, six years later, she is on the Center Board and works for SOVAS, South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society, as Resource Development Coordinator. SOVAS supports men, women and children who have experienced sexual abuse or domestic violence. She also helps organize events like Take Back the Night. Along with a SOVAS co-worker, Amberlee developed an educational component for Grade 4/5 students. She addresses issues like online safety, sexting, child pornography and advises children how to recognize and effectively report sexual abuse. “The children ask me some really good, thoughtful questions and they really want the information.”
Amberlee also works as Project Coordinator for YES, Youth Engagement Strategy a program of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan/Similkameen. YES empowers youth to become role models and leaders. Initially funded three years ago thanks to a legacy, YES is there to meet the needs of local youth, particularly young people in need of basic support. Amberlee is an advocate, finding resources and, working side by side with young people, she helps build their self esteem. “Youth are the backbone of the YES Project. Together with other service providers we are a strong team.” YES recently acquired its own premises and, on January 5th, excitedly received the keys to a very large facility. Fundraising is ongoing as the total need to complete this building project is $3 million.
When your career is in social services, it is easy for work to become your passion and to spill over into your free time. Amberlee’s obligations to SOVAS and YES extend well beyond her work day: her commitment also stretches to volunteering for other organizations. She was named one of Penticton’s ‘Top 40 under 40’, Kelowna’s ‘Top 20 to Watch’ and a ‘Local Hero’ by Global TV in 2015. At university, she wasn’t so sure that one person could have an impact. “Now, with my life experience, I believe that the smallest thing that a person does for others can make a difference. I want to contribute to a sense of community – to give back.”
Amberlee is a lovely, graceful, natural beauty with a warm enthusiastic smile. A little pensively she shares: “I look healthy and I like to pretend my health is normal.” She suffers from psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory auto immune condition, which brings daily challenges so that doing some things takes a little extra time. Her motivation to move forward positively comes from helping people. “It makes me feel good and realizing their needs pushes me to be a better person and make that difference.” Amberlee Erdmann’s passion is contagious, and it is easy to understand how she is able to inspire youth to become leaders who hopefully will, in turn, give back to our Okanagan communities.