Sometimes it takes a bit of adversity in your own life to truly appreciate the difference you can make in someone else’s.
Brittany Wiesner understands this well.
Brittany provides administrative support for United Way’s Donor Experience team, coordinating volunteer experiences. But more than that, as nominated by her own colleagues, she is an inspiring community champion.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up,” says Brittany. “I always thought if I ever had enough to share, I would want to help other families.”
It was these values that may have prompted 12-year-old Brittany to write about children of war in Sierre Leone for a presentation at her Abbotsford middle school. Later in life, she would lead theatre sports with vulnerable kids while studying drama at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).
“Once I realized that the world is bigger, I realized that everywhere, someone needs help. And the best way to help, is to start at home.”
Work and community hand-in-hand
After graduating from UFV, Brittany became an insurance advisor at BCAA. She was pleasantly surprised to discover she didn’t need to work in the non-profit sector, or volunteer around the clock, to make a meaningful difference.
“BCAA was amazing,” she says. “I was the United Way ambassador and took part in the campaign. We coordinated a drive for the Food Bank and adopted a family every Christmas. I helped bring Tampon Tuesday to BCAA’s Abbotsford office.” (Tampon Tuesday is the per-cursor to Period Promise, a United Way campaign on now to end period poverty improve access to menstrual products).
“I was able to be a leader in all of that,” says Brittany. “It was an amazing avenue for giving back.”
For each of us, a small battle
Brittany’s experience proves you don’t have to have ‘all good days’ to be a leader. Brittany has psoriatic arthritis, an auto-immune condition that attacks the skin and joints.
“It’s an ongoing struggle,” she says. “In the summer, I feel great. In the winter, I feel bad most days.”
While medication helps her manage her chronic condition, she also finds inspiration in helping foster truly welcoming communities for people with similar interests – like Dungeons & Dragons!
While she loves the popular fantasy role-playing game, Brittany explains that Dungeons & Dragons groups can be exclusive and homogeneous, lacking the diversity to create a rich, inclusive community. She is working to change that.
Brittany is a player on ZeroD20, a Dungeons & Dragons podcast that centres voices of women and gender non-binary players. The group creates podcasts out of the inventive games they create and play together, and have even been featured at Geek Girl Con, a gaming conference for women in Seattle.
“It’s such a male-dominated environment,” says Brittany. “We want women to hear women’s voices, and know that they can play too.”
It’s just one more way Brittany is helping create more healthy, caring and inclusive communities – no matter how we define them.
Small acts add up
Brittany is excited at what the future holds at United Way, especially as new ways of working take root in neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. She’s encouraged by the Local Love Funds recently launched in Lower Lonsdale and Clayton Heights, and loves hearing how residents might apply so they can build peer support groups.
“I have found great communities of support,” says Brittany, of her psoriatic arthritis. “I love the idea of help that is low–barrier and low-cost,” she adds.
“I’ve struggled with my mental health because of my chronic illness. Free, helpful support is very hard to find. United Way is a great avenue is a great way to create those support networks in your community.”
Brittany’s co-workers at United Way say she embodies local love. So what does it mean to her?
“Community is important. Local love is important. It’s important that we go into our communities and be ambassadors for change and progress.”
“If we don’t, who will?”
This profile is a part of our Local Love Starts Here series, showcasing how United Way staffers give back.
Meet more amazing United Way employees, here.