Hi Neighbour, helping people connect to their communities

Clayton Heights’ students prepping lunches at Save-On Meats. Support for the field trip was provided by United Way’s Local Love Fund.

Working together makes all the difference when it comes to building community, according to United Way of the Lower Mainland research.

Volunteering is 21% more meaningful when you do it with people you know. It’s something students from Clayton Heights Secondary School completely agree with.

Earlier this month, 30 Grade 10 Math students travelled from Surrey’s Clayton Heights to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), where they made and distributed 400 lunches for local residents.

The youth received $1,500 from United Way’s Local Love Fund to support volunteerism and combat social isolation and loneliness both in their classroom and on the DTES. The students had to use their math skills to feed as many people as they could for that amount.

Good neighbours are all ages

Students getting ready to deliver sandwiches and treats. Not only are they sharing food, they are fighting social isolation and loneliness both on the DTES and in their own classroom.

“The math kiddos do it because they get to go on a field trip for math, which is unheard of,” says Sarah Daintrey, Leadership Department Head and Math and Science Teacher at Clayton Heights.

“They feel empowered by helping others…One student turned to me and said: “This has been the best day. I cannot thank you enough for taking us.”

Sarah says it also helps the youth build a sense of connection amongst their peers.

Making connections, creating places and spaces where people feel welcome and a part of a community makes people’s lives better whether you live in Clayton Heights or the DTES. That’s because loneliness and isolation are increasing.

Helping fight loneliness

Almost half (46%) of British Columbians say they sometimes feel lonely. To tackle social isolation locally, United Way has embedded community engagement teams in eight neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley over the past year. It’s all part of our Hi Neighbour Initiative designed to build stronger communities and ignite the desire in everyone to improve the place we call home.

Hi Neighbour is all about a neighbourhood’s residents coming up with creative ways to do the things that matter most for their community. With support from United Way’s Local Love Fund, people have hosted community clean ups, mom and tot groups, supported youth with an innovative war canoeing program, built little libraries for their front yards, hosted seniors’ lunches and led drop-in soccer programs.

Next up for the Clayton Heights students: Hallowe’en for Hunger, when students will be out and about in the Clayton neighbourhood trick or treating for canned goods to donate to the local food bank. Neighbourhood residents can drop off donations at Clayton Heights Secondary School or give them to students when they come to their door.

“My kids make me want to give more to my school and community every day,” Sarah says.

Sunset Local Love Fund launches

Now, residents in Vancouver’s Sunset neighbourhood will have the same opportunity. United Way is offering up to $12,000 for projects foster more local love in that community.

“We’ve met some incredible people in Sunset with great ideas to make the community even better. It is our hope that the Local Love Fund, paired with our team’s support, will help bring some of those ideas to life!”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of projects Sunset folks will bring to the table,” says Ivy Staker, Senior Community Engagement Specialist at United Way.

The fund has two categories. Small Spark helps community projects with up to $250; examples might include a block party, or a neighbourhood clean-up. For bigger, bolder ideas, residents can apply for up to $1,000.

Not sure where to start? We can help. Drop us a line at sunset@uwlm.ca.

Along with Clayton Heights in Surrey and Sunset in Vancouver, Hi Neighbour communities include: Burke Mountain in Coquitlam, Cedar Valley in Mission, Edmonds in Vancouver, Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver, Sardis in Chilliwack and Willoughby in Langley.