United Way volunteer takes her skills to Africa
I started volunteering with United Way in 2013. As a global studies student focusing in sustainable community development, I was initially inspired by the meaningful impact NGOs can have in our communities and I knew I wanted to get involved.
I began volunteering once a week, helping out with administration and sending thank you cards to donors. I eventually began doing data entry, donor research, social media management, and research on program development.
I can remember the first time I personally felt the impact of the work United Way was doing. I was entering data from pledge forms and I noticed some donors had scribbled thank you notes along the bottom or tops of the forms, or wherever they could fit their message.
I was moved by the heartfelt messages from so many different people in different circumstances.
A wife who thanked us for supporting the program that assisted her after the loss of her husband; a mother who praised the support of the therapeutic riding program her autistic daughter partook in, helping her develop her confidence and social skills; a young man who thanked us for supporting the restorative justice program that assisted him in making positive changes in his life; a woman who faced homelessness at the age of 17.
It was then that I began to realize just how far reaching the impact of United Way truly was.
This year, United Way is supporting 116 programs delivered by 90 different organizations, societies, and clubs. These programs assist approximately 52,000 individuals from varying demographics and backgrounds.
I believe that as a community, we rise and fall together. This inclusive support helps not only the participants of the programs, but also the community as a whole. The meaningful impact that United Way CNVI has on Central and Northern Vancouver Island is inspiring, and this is why I continued volunteering with United Way throughout my undergrad at VIU.
While at United Way I was given many opportunities to develop and learn new skills. To list just a few: communication, teamwork, self-management, critical thinking and professional hard skills like research, social media management, data entry, and the ability to work with relevant software and computer programs.
I had the opportunity to do research on the quantification and impact of the social sector, which was later presented at the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit, as well as the opportunity to attend meetings such as the Homelessness Forum and Nanaimo’s Homelessness Coalition. These experiences have given me a deeper understanding of our community’s needs and allowed me to see first-hand the time, dedication and impressive hard work that goes into making these positive changes happen.
I recently graduated from VIU with my degree in Global Studies and am now on an international project, fulfilling a 12-month placement in Mwanza, Tanzania. The project focuses on capacity building and works with local partners and youth in 6 nations worldwide to build local sustainable solutions to social, economic and environmental challenges.
The complexity and magnitude of these challenges can be daunting. However, the experiences and opportunities I have had over the past six years - through my undergrad, international travels, and my time at United Way - have given me the tools to tackle these challenges realistically, and with a deeper understanding of what it truly takes to make long-term, sustainable change that builds resilient community.