How to find affordable after-school activities

by Tracy Green on September 29, 2017 Comments Off on How to find affordable after-school activities

How to find affordable after-school activities

From mom-and-baby classes to post-kindergarten playdates, there’s lots of stuff for little kids to do to keep them busy and socially engaged before nap time. But once they start school, opportunities for extracurricular engagement start to drop. “There’s a complete mismatch between the end of the school day and the end of parents’ workdays,” says Daljit Gill-Badesha, healthy communities and children’s manager at the City of Surrey Parks, Recreation and Culture. “And children in the six-to-12 age group are more vulnerable at this time than any other. Unfortunately, many kids lack opportunities to be meaningfully engaged and active after school.”

That’s a problem because “kids need after-school time to develop socially, to explore their limits and to manage peer relationships in a creative, open environment,” says Emma Sutherland, executive director of Red Fox Healthy Living Society, a United Way agency in Vancouver that gives Indigenous and inner-city children access to recreation, food and cultural programs designed to foster healthy living, leadership and employment training.

And quality after-school programming doesn’t just benefit kids. “For some parents, especially the working poor, these few hours of childcare, where they know their kids are safe, happy and supervised, can make all the difference,” says Sutherland. “These programs also create opportunities for community bonding for parents who need a little extra social support.” Here’s how to find the best after-school programs in your area.

1. Ask kids for input

Gill-Badesha recommends asking kids what they want to do. “When we’re talking to kids, they’ll say, ‘We have ideas, we know what we want. You need to work with us more.’” she says. “These kids have so much potential, and they want places to act on that potential.” Just a trip to your local library can offer them an array of choices, from book and Lego clubs to homework help to games and crafts days.

2. Find a team

Most communities offer organized sports teams, but there are also multisport leadership programs funded by non-profit organizations, as well as programs designed to keep kids physically active available through city recreation centres, arenas and pools. “Whether it’s sports-oriented or a form of creative play, play in itself gives children opportunities that lead to mastery, which is so important for self-esteem,” says Sutherland.

3. Let them lead

Look for organizations that get kids involved in community leadership projects, giving them the chance to develop their leadership potential. Some great options include Scouts, Guides, and United Way-supported Boys & Girls’ Clubs and community-school partnership programs. At Red Fox, programs geared toward physical literacy are led by Indigenous youth who may then progress to supervisors and, eventually, become staff members. “It’s an important opportunity for all children to see Indigenous youth in leadership positions,” says Sutherland.

To find after-school activities near you, dial 211, B.C.’s community and social services helpline.


Right now vulnerable kids are still lingering on after-school wait lists. The right connection could save their lives. Could it be you? Donate Today.

Tracy GreenHow to find affordable after-school activities

Every child matters: wear orange!

by Tracy Green on September 29, 2017 Comments Off on Every child matters: wear orange!
Michael Harris, a Gitxsan elder with his Every Child Matters t-shirt

Gitxsan Elder Michael Harris teaches United Way staff about Indigenous traditions and learnings.


September 30th is Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in the spring of 2013. It grew out of Phyllis’ story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day of school at the Mission. Orange Shirt Day has become an opportunity to keep the discussion alive about residential schools and to reinforce that every child matters. September 30th was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools. Recognizing this day provides an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.

Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come. Last year, United Way of the Lower Mainland adopted a Statement of Reconciliation. The Statement recognizes the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. United Way commitment to Reconciliation includes providing cultural awareness training and education to staff as well as workinig in partnership with Aboriginal peoples in BC to build stronger relationships.

At present, United Way invests nearly $2 million in Aboriginal initiatives. The early childhood program Success By 6 BC invests another $1 million. Better at Home, a seniors program funded by the provincial government and managed by United Way, has four Aboriginal-focused programs located on reserve that serve Aboriginal communities: Squamish Nation–Tsleil-Waututh Nation Better at Home; Stó:lō Territory Better at Home; Gitxsan Better at Home; and Cowichan Tribes Better at Home. United Way is helping build a strong community for all.       







Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story in her own words… 7276003_orig I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, and there was no welfare, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school! When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never saw it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared. I was 13 years old and in grade 8 when my son Jeremy was born. Because my grandmother and mother both attended residential school for 10 years each, I never knew what a parent was supposed to be like.  With the help of my aunt, Agness Jack, I was able to raise my son and have him know me as his mother. I went to a treatment centre for healing when I was 27 and have been on this healing journey since then.  I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter.  Even with all the work I’ve done! I am honored to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories.


Tracy GreenEvery child matters: wear orange!

Dads meet up on the North Shore

by Tracy Green on September 28, 2017 Comments Off on Dads meet up on the North Shore


Twice a month, Wes, Adam, Michael and Dave meet up as part of the Dads on the North Shore peer support group. The first time they meet, it’s just the guys, but the second time, it’s the dads and their young children. With almost 50,000 families on the North Shore, this unique United Way-funded group is a hit with single, stay-at-home, and dual income dads. Since its creation in January, this volunteer-driven program has grown from 40 members to 230.

Co-Facilitator and Founder Wes McVey started the group to give North Shore dads the opportunity to connect so that they can be the best parents they can be and so that their kids can grow up great.

At the bi-monthly get-togethers, the dads exchange advice, tips and have frank conversations about the joys and travails of parenting. Many of these discussions also take place online through the group’s Facebook page. Kid-friendly activities and advice for new and soon-to-be-dads are hot topics.

“The big thing for many guys, me included, is not liking to admit they’re having problems – feeling lost – losing control,” says group participant, Dave. “Knowing you’re not alone can be a huge relief.”

Dads on the North Shore grew out of the North Shore Connect for Kids Planning Tables’ Early Years Vulnerability Project and was funded in part by United Way’s Success By 6 Initiative. Annually, the initiative invested over $1 million in Lower Mainland communities to help citizens build child and family friendly communities.


Tracy GreenDads meet up on the North Shore

HSBC expands funding commitment to education

by Tracy Green on September 28, 2017 Comments Off on HSBC expands funding commitment to education

kids running as part of the United Way Run and Read Program


United Way is one of four charities that HSBC Bank Canada (HSBC) is supporting through an $11 million funding commitment from 2014 to 2020.

The three other charities are Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, Indspire and Pathways to Education Canada. Through this combination of charitable organizations, HSBC is funding wraparound support to Indigenous youth, as well as young people who are at-risk, in low-income communities, or involved in the child welfare system. With programming delivered from coast to coast – including in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City – the aim is to help more young Canadians achieve their educational goals and reach their full potential.

While Canada has one of the highest post-secondary education completion rates amongst Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries,1 there remain major inequalities for under-represented youth. For instance, less than half of Indigenous peoples in Canada have completed post-secondary,2 and youth from low income communities are three times more likely to drop out of high school.3

“At HSBC we believe that every young person, regardless of their background or circumstances, should receive the support they need to pursue their educational goals and prepare for future success,” said Sandra Stuart, President and CEO, HSBC Bank Canada. “We have seen first-hand how these programs are transforming the lives of Canada’s future generations, and we’re building on this success through renewed funding to help promote long-term sustainable change and organizational development.”

HSBC’s funding will support United Way programs that help at-risk school-aged children have a place to go after school where they can be safe, healthy and supported to succeed.

“Having access to after-school programming that sets young people up for success is so important,” said Michael McKnight, President and CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland. “These programs are designed to meet kids’ developmental needs, they build social and emotional well-being and relationship development and provide opportunities for physical activity, ensuring all participants have the ability to achieve their full learning potential.”

HSBC employees will also continue to show their support for children’s education and vulnerable youth through volunteering, employee fundraising and organizing skills-based events. For more information (link to news release).


1)       Education at a Glance Canada, Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development  (2013):;jsessionid=i80d4e7yxwlq.x-oecd-live-03

2)       Aboriginal Statistics at a Glance: 2nd Edition (2011).

3)       Boston Consulting Group Assessment of Pathways to Education, Boston Consulting Group, (2011):


Tracy GreenHSBC expands funding commitment to education

Making connections and doing good

by Tracy Green on September 22, 2017 Comments Off on Making connections and doing good

Being kind to one another is contagious and feels good! So does making connections.

Yesterday, almost 200 enthusiastic volunteers and supporters connected with each other at RevUp, United Way’s annual training and kick-off event. United Way Employee Campaign Chairs, Leadership Chairs, Board of Directors, Campaign Cabinet and Campaign Associates all took part in the networking event held at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

At RevUp, guests met Angie. Suddenly widowed, Angie faced her own health problems and ended up alone and isolated. A United Way Seniors Active Aging program literally put her on a party bus. Now she is engaged in her community and making friends. She is no longer alone. The right connection literally saved her life.

People also found out about the brain chemistry that connects giving with feeling good. SFU’s Dr. Lara Aknin explained the science behind what we all know on a gut level: it just feels good to give.

None of the work United Way does in the community would be possible without the hard work of our volunteers and the support of our donors and strength of our partnerships.

To view photos from the event, click here.

Tracy GreenMaking connections and doing good

September 21 is United Way Day!

by Tracy Green on September 19, 2017 Comments Off on September 21 is United Way Day!

For over 87 years, United Way has been supporting individuals of all ages and backgrounds across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. We fund over 174 agencies to deliver more than 350 programs that help children, families and seniors. Last year alone, we supported 400,000 people.

To celebrate United Way Day, we are asking people to commit conscious acts of kindness and show how much they love where they live – and what better way to do this than to be kind to one another? It’s simple! Hold a door open for somebody, say good morning to a stranger or let a rush hour cheater merge in front of you in a traffic line.

United Way strives to build strong and healthy communities for everyone: being kind is a great way to do just this.

Here are some ideas on how to be kind to one another. Sometimes a smile or a kind word can make your day.


United Way Day also kicks off UWLM’s fall fundraising drive. None of the work we do here in the or local communities to help people in need is possible without the generosity of our donors,  the support of our partners and work of our volunteers.

Check out our Twitter and Facebook for updates throughout the day! Happy United Way Day – let’s show our kindness and continue to help, support, and empower everyone who calls this community home.

Share your acts of kindness with us using #showyourkindness.

Here’s what’s happening for United Way Day, September 21:

  • United Way Day has been proclaimed in 11 communities served by United Way of the Lower Mainland: Belcarra, Burnaby, New Westminster, City of North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Squamish, Surrey, Vancouver and Whistler.
  • BC Place stadium will be lit in red at dusk on September 20.
  • $5 will buy a coffee and a pastry outside of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on September 21 from 6:30 to 8:00 am with proceeds benefiting United Way.
  • Vancouver City Hall and Port Coquitlam City Hall will be lit up in red at dusk on September 21.
Tracy GreenSeptember 21 is United Way Day!

Time to get revved up for Campaign 2017

by Tracy Green on September 11, 2017 Comments Off on Time to get revved up for Campaign 2017

Changing lives. Building community. It all starts on United Way Day, September 21 when volunteers from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley help kick off United Way’s 2017 campaign at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

The theme of United Way Day is being kind to one another. Volunteers will be out across downtown Vancouver early that morning handing out Cards of Kindness – each card featuring a kind action individuals can do for strangers, friends and family. Eleven municipalities have proclaimed United Way Day and BC Place, Port Coquitlam City Hall and Vancouver City Hall will all be lit up in red to mark the day.

United Way Day also launches United Way’s annual fundraising campaign. Later in the morning, Employee Campaign Chairs, Leadership Chairs, United Way’s Board of Directors, Campaign Cabinet and Campaign Associates all join together at United Way’s RevUp Event. At RevUp, volunteers not only get the training they need to run great fundraising campaigns, but will leave inspired after meeting Angie, a senior whose life was changed because of a United Way-funded Seniors Active Aging program. They’ll also learn why it just feels so good to give from our keynote speaker, Dr. Lara Aknin.

Thanks to The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Unifor Local 4275 for their ongoing support of this event and the United Way campaign.

For more information or to register, please visit


Tracy GreenTime to get revved up for Campaign 2017

School’s back: apply now for PPI

by Tracy Green on September 6, 2017 Comments Off on School’s back: apply now for PPI

The graduating class of United Way’s 2017 Public Policy Institute.

Are you a change maker who works in the non-profit sector and wants to advance social change? Registration is now open for the 2018 United Way Public Policy Institute, a professional development program designed to help non-profit leaders and their organizations increase their understanding of the public policy process in BC and their capacity to influence it. Enrollment is open to organizations involved in social or health related services from across the province. Applicants must be from the non-profit sector, have several years of experience in their field, and be actively involved in the area they would like to see policy change. The program runs between January and June, 2018 in monthly two-day sessions. Topics explored include evidence, policy options, engagement as well as implementation & evaluation. The calibre of the Public Policy Institute is beyond compare. Our very dedicated faculty are returning in 2018:  Mike Harcourt, former premier of British Columbia; Brenda Eaton; Elizabeth Cull; Ida Goodreau; and Liz Whynot. They bring a wealth of real-life public policy experience to the program, complemented by an impressive and diverse array of panelists and guest speakers. The United Way Public Policy Institute is modeled on similar successful training programs offered by the Maytree Foundation in Ontario and the Max Bell Foundation in Alberta. For more information or to obtain an application form for the 2018 United Way Public Policy Institute, please contact Mr. Yves Trudel at United Way of the Lower Mainland at The deadline to submit an application is October 13, 2017.

Tracy GreenSchool’s back: apply now for PPI