Vol 'n' tell

The Official Blog of Volunteer Richmond Information Services
  • Meeting Our Neighbours - A Block Party in Terra Nova

    The Vancouver Foundation's popular Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) program came to Richmond for the first time ever this September 2014. The Richmond NSG program is administered by the Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives partnership between Volunteer Richmond and the Richmond Community Foundation. Already several successful events have already taken place, with a few more to come! We were so excited to hear from one of our first events, a block party organized by Susan Parsons, Jen Tait, David Larrigan, and Caroline To. Here's guest blogger Susan Parsons herself with a few words on their "Meet Your Neighbours" gathering in Terra Nova.

    Four Block Watch Captains wanted to put together a community event to enhance community spirit and encourage better “neighbourly” relations within our small community of Hankin Drive and Musgrave Crescent in the Terra Nova area of Richmond. We chose to do a morning coffee “Meet your Neighbours” get together from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on September 20, 2014. Coffee, tea and small snacks were to be provided and necessitated the rental of some tents, tables and a few chairs to create a site for the Block Party. We applied for and received a Small Neighbourhood Grant in order to cover our expenses.

    We approached some of our community retail outlets for their support as well and were very warmly received. Starbucks supplied coffee, tea and accessories, and gave us a 40% discount on our food purchase. Save-On Foods provided us with water and juice, and two managers even came with a Save-On tent in order to help serve the attendees.

    We also advised Block Watch about this activity and while this was not a “Block Watch” event, they supported us by sending two RCMP auxiliary officers in their patrol car to mingle with both the children and adults.

    We used our Block Watch email address list to send out our invitations, and also delivered them door to door to achieve 100% coverage. We had our invitations printed in Chinese and English due to the diverse nature of our neighbourhood. As our event was taking place on a street, we had to purchase Liability Insurance, which was an unexpected expense.

    The end result was a huge success with over 100 people attending our event. The feedback even before the event was and is very positive. Neighbours have mentioned that others are now greeting them on the street whereas in the past heads would be down, as people went their own way. We are grateful to the Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grants Program for enabling us to hold this event. We also thank Serena Lusk for mentoring us through the steps of the event, and for securing City of Richmond traffic barriers and tents for us. We acknowledged all of the above on our invitation and at our sign in table at the event.

    A couple of stats: we had representation from 44 of 68 households on our Block Watch list (which is now up to 72 houses out of 114 houses). Hard to know the exact number of people as we didn't keep track of the numbers of children who attended, but we used just over 100 of our name tag labels (for adults)!

    Our hope is to maintain periodic contact with all neighbours, and to hold another event in 2015.

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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: September 2014

    This month's world of volunteerism certainly is wide - here's blogger Ray Wang with stories from the African wild, factories in the developing world, and (this is a new one) an organic bread factory in the U.S.

    Gap Invests in the Women that Make Its Clothes: Improving Women's Lives and Benefitting Businesses

    Image source: GOOD

    GAP is committed to improve the lives of its female garment workers through its Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) program. The program provides females workers with education and training they need to move forward at work and in life. The training offers course such as financial literary module where female workers would learn how to manage personal finances and set long-term goals, such as starting small businesses in their free time.

    Yao Ming Works to Save Africa's Elephants and Rhinos from Poaching

    Image source: Mashable 

    The 7’ 6” former NBA All-Star is using his influential power to save Africa's most vulnerable and beautiful animals: rhinos and elephants. As the middle class in China grows, more Chinese people are purchasing ivory or rhino horns to show-off their wealth. This increased demand has fuelled a major poaching crisis in Africa. To help reduce and eliminate the unethical consumption of ivory or rhino horn, Yao Ming has partnered with WildAid, a non-profit organization dedicated to stop illegal wildlife trade, to develop The End of The Wild, a film documenting the cruelties of poaching.

    Why the Best Employees at the Country's Top Organic Bread Company Are Ex-Convicts

    Image source: Fast Company

    Ronnie Elrod firmly believes that everyone deserves a second chance in life. The founder and owner of Dave’s Killer Bread, an organic bread company based in Portland, has hired roughly 100 individuals who have been behind bars to give them another shot at life. The staff members gets an opportunity to work and earn a steady income and participate in “partner enrichment programs” where they can learn about managing budgets, resolving conflicts, finding housings, and other life skills.

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: September 2014

    In this month's Non-Profit Video Picks, blogger Ray Wang highlights two different kinds of inequalities - class and gender. Class inequalities can seem more easily noticeable, especially when it takes the form of homelessness. It may be difficult to notice gender inequality - perhaps because it seems like our society has already made so much progress in terms of women's rights. But as the videos from Google and from Emma Watson demonstrate - gender inequality is abundantly apparent for anyone who takes the time to learn about and to listen to women's experiences. 

    Women Techmakers: Make Your Passion

    According to Forbes, only 24% of U.S. IT professionals are female. This alarming low number of females in the IT industry limits the potential growth of the technology industry. According to Intel vice president Bernadette Andrietti, “Women offer a fresh perspective on product design, ways of working, risk-taking and many other aspects of business.”

    To inspire more females to enter the technology industry, established female engineers such as Kelly Ellis, Software Engineer at Google, and Shannon Spanhake, Deputy Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco, share their motivation for entering the technology industry. They also share their thoughts on possible social solutions and products that can be developed if women are encouraged to pursue careers in technology.

    Giving to People Who Give

    In this humorous and touching video, BigDawsTv, a YouTube comedian, rewards people who give by pretending to be a homeless and returning donated money with $20 on top. BigDaws’ creative and unconventional way of sparking conversations about helping the homeless will definitely motivate others to give a hand to those in need. If you’re interested in helping homeless and low-income residents in our own community, please visit Richmond Food Bank Society.

    Emma Watson UN Speech

    As a part of the He for She campaign, Emma Watson, the British actress who was named a U.N. Women Global Goodwill ambassador earlier this year, delivers a touching speech on gender inequality, feminism, and how both women and men need to come together to end gender inequality. In her speech, Emma said:

    “I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.
    Why is the word such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”

    According to Forbes, only 24% of U.S. IT professionals are female. This alarming low number of females in the IT industry limits the potential growth of the technology industry. According to Intel vice president Bernadette Andrietti, “Women offer a fresh perspective on pro

    According to com/sites/leoking/2014/03/08/women-in-technology-a-brightening-outlook/" data-mce-href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/leoking/2014/03/08/women-in-technology-a-brightening-outlook/" style="color: #1b8be0; font-style: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: 1.7;">Forbes, only 24% of U.S. IT professionals are female. This alarming low number of females in the IT industry limits the potential growth of the technology industry. According to Intel vice president Bernadette Andrietti, “Women offer a fresh perspective on product design, ways of working, risk-taking and many other aspects of business.”

    To inspire more females to enter the technology industry, established female engineers such as Kelly Ellis, Software Engineer at Google, and Shannon Spanhake, Deputy Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco, share their motivation for entering the technology industry. They also share their thoughts on possible social solutions and products that can be developed if women are encouraged to pursue careers in technology.



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  • Child Care Provider Profile: Nest Early Learning

    By offering a pleasant facility and a balanced curriculum, Nest Early Learning has become a recognized name in the early childcare field. In this edition of the Child Care Provider Series, Garrett Woo discusses the importance of making an impact on learning at a young age and offers some solutions for overcoming professional boundaries.

    Say hello to the friendly little face of Nest Early Learning!

    What made you want to become a child care provider?

    This may sound cliché, but I wanted to become a childcare provider because I love working with children. My childhood teachers helped shape me into who I am today and I would like to have a similar impact on the children in our community.  

    What’s your favourite part of operating a child care facility and your least favourite?

    Favourite: Seeing the children’s eyes light up when they discover something new.

    Least Favourite: Doing taxes.

    How do you promote your business?

    - Social media

    - Company website

    - Posters and flyers

    - Recreation guides

    - Word of mouth

    What does professionalism mean to you?

    Being skilled in the field that you work in and acknowledging that you are a direct reflection of the company you are representing. 

    What challenges do you face as a child care provider? How do you overcome them?

    The biggest challenge that I have faced has to do with being a male in the childcare field. It is very natural for females to been seen as caregivers. As such, some parents are not 100% comfortable with their child’s pre-k teacher being male.  I have learned to overcome this issue by having confidence in my own abilities and showing parents that there are many benefits to a male teacher present in a childcare setting.  

    A perfect place to let your imagination run free!

    What do you find parents are looking for most in a child care provider?

    There has to be a strong and genuine trust that their child care provider takes great care of their child. If parents don’t fully trust their provider, catered meals by Gordon Ramsey wouldn’t help their cause. 

    What’s your favourite activity to do with children?

    I love being outdoors and exploring nature with the children. We are starting a “eat what you grow” activity at Nest and the children are amazed at how their tomato and bean seeds have grown taller than they are. 

    Do you keep in contact with other child care providers? Would you say there is a cohesive child care community in Richmond?

    Yes, we do keep in touch with a handful of childcare providers within Richmond. Having the opportunity to refer families to other centres fosters healthy relationships within the community. I believe that the more effort a facility makes into meeting other providers, the better experience they will have while in this field. The childcare community in Richmond is as cohesive as you want it to be.  

    Are there any services not available in Richmond that you think child care providers and/or parents would benefit from?

    With the number of childcare providers in Richmond, I believe that there is a “right fit” for each child. That being said, we need more providers that can accommodate children with special needs. 

    Do you have any advice for people new to the child care field?

    Keep your chin up and be receptive to learning more about your profession. There are excellent childcare professionals within the Richmond community that can help you become a better educator.   

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  • Learning through Play: The CCRR Libraries

    Richmond's best-kept childcare secret is out! In our latest article, volunteer blogger Susan Young reviews the two difference resource libraries at the Richmond Child Care Resource & Referral Centre (CCRR).

    Programming and Outreach Consultant Chris Lee with the CCRR Community Resource Library
    Having to entertain children after a long day at work or a full day of homemaking can be stressful. It’s tempting to take out a tablet and have them be entertained at the endless available movies and apps. The accessibility of all these gadgets brings the term “digital nanny” to mind - it’s so easy to whip out an iPad or smartphone to distract your kids while you savour some quiet time to yourself. But is that what we really want? We have to wonder if it will adversely affect our little one’s development. Can parents teach young children to entertain themselves without using technology?

    According to the Canadian Council on Learning“Play nourishes every aspect of children’s development - it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life.” If play is so important to one’s development, can parents help teach kids how to play? By providing books and toys, parents can help to spark curiosity, imagination, and independence at a young age. A common term used in education, “Learning Through Play,” describes how children can learn to make sense of the world through play and to develop social and cognitive skills, emotional maturity, and self-confidence.

    Even if young children don’t yet know how to fully read or play, just the act of turning pages in a book, or identifying and touching familiar objects, can spark an interest for learning. It's also a good opportunity to bond and connect with your child. With my own child, I've found that setting a regular routine of reading and activities has helped to increase attention span, vocabulary, imagination, motor skills, and awareness of surroundings. By associating what they’ve read with their daily lives, children can easily grow their vocabulary, self-confidence, and comprehension.

    A contender for the cutest sushi playset ever, from our CCRR Community Resource Library

    Without needing to spend a whole lot on new books or toys, parents can easily visit the Child Care Resource & Referral Community Resource Library and the Child Care Resource & Referral Lending Library to pick up various learning and play items. By joining a yearly membership ($5 for the Community Resource Library and $20 for the Lending Library) parents gain borrowing privileges to a plethora of educational material for children ages 0-5 and 3-12 years old.

    Playtime expert Jacob with his mom Karen Leung with their newly borrowed toys from the CCRR Community Resource Library

    The CCRR Community Resource Library runs from April to March and is only available to parents. Parents can choose from a large selection of puzzles, books,and games catering to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in Chinese, English, and Punjabi. The CCRR Community Resource Library travels to four drop-in locations in Richmond, allowing parents to easily pickup and return toys. Children who normally attend the drop-in activities can borrow an item to take home for a week. All kits are educational and age appropriate for active minds. 

    In addition, parents can obtain community information or learn about programs or events offered by the Health Department and the Richmond Public Library through the Community Connections Project at the drop-ins. As noted by Karen Leung, a parent who frequently borrows from the Community Resource Library: “Chris, the programming and Outreach Consultant, also provided information about parenting and local events. Even if I can’t attend all the local events, I like being aware of what’s going on. Knowing this information helps me feel connected to my community”.

    The CCRR Lending Library, on the other hand, is an extensive library open to families, Early Childhood Education students, community members, and child care providers. The library consists of material for children ages 3-12, including children’s books, activity boxes, toy bags, CD’s, and many curriculum materials for supporting programs at a child care center. Members may borrow material for up to 1 month, with some restrictions on seasonal and renewal items. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm, with a few exceptions. On Tuesday, they are open until 8pm, and the second Saturday of every month from 10am - 1pm.


    Boxes and boxes and shelves and shelves of books and toys at the CCRR Lending Library

    With this assortment of learning and educational materials, parents can feel assured that there are excellent resources available for families with children. After committing some time to showing your child how to play and ensuring material is within reach, parents may be surprised at what their child may take interest to or do on their own. For very young children, going back to the basics of learning through play allows the development of healthy habits. As children mature, technology can be introduced in moderation for enjoyment and to complement learning.

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  • Richmond’s Giving Spirit

    It's Christmas Fund season again, and of course, that means we're looking for volunteers to help us make the holiday season as joyful as possible for Richmond's low-income families. Not yet sure about joining the team? We thought you might need a bit of convincing, which is why we recruited guest blogger (and former Volunteer Richmond summer student) Tina Deng to give us an overview of what the Christmas Fund is, why it's so important, and what others are doing to help.

    "Children are poor in this city. Do something about it," reads the United Way of the Lower Mainland’s poverty prevention campaign.

    Yet for many of us, when we think of hungry and poverty stricken children, our thoughts automatically turn to images of children living in far away villages instead of the children in our own community. For many of us, it can be difficult to imagine that there are children living among us who may be hungry or who lack proper housing and clothing when we may be much more accustomed to hearing about poverty in developing nations.

    Nonetheless, according to the authors of the 2013 BC Child Poverty Report Card, B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. Compared to the national rate of 13.3 per cent, B.C.’s child poverty rate is a staggering 18.6 per cent. Even more astonishing a fact is that the child poverty rate actually increased from 14.3 per cent in 2010 to its current numbers. Hence, as noted by the report, almost one in five B.C. children lives in poverty. Not surprising then, the report calls for the provincial government to adopt a more comprehensive poverty reduction plan. But at the same time, the Richmond community can do its part to help families in need.

    Volunteer Richmond has been running the Richmond Christmas Fund for over twenty years now. During the holiday season, the Christmas Fund gives new toys to children and grocery gift certificates to low-income Richmond residents so that every family has the opportunity to have a joyous holiday.

    Last year alone, the Christmas Fund distributed grocery vouchers to over 1,800 low-income Richmond residents and provided over 600 children under 15 with toys, books, and gift cards. And as with any initiative of this magnitude, the Christmas Fund would not be possible without the generosity of donors and volunteers.

    Volunteers Justinne Ramirez (right) and Chris Lim (left) at a fundraiser for the Richmond Christmas Fund

    Justinne Ramirez is one such volunteer. She has volunteered with the Christmas Fund for three years now and plans to continue this year. What started for her as a desire to create a volunteering tradition with her boyfriend has turned into a solo effort – but that hasn’t stopped her.

    “Christmas is a time of giving,” says Justinne, “so how heartbreaking is it to know that [there are] children [who] have nothing on Christmas?”

    And as a toy room assistant, Justinne not only helps parents choose toys for their children, but she also gets to see firsthand the joy felt by the grateful parents and smiling children.

    “Parents sometimes get emotional and it’s great that we get to make them feel like they can provide for their children in grander ways. It really gives them hope that things will get better.”

    Similarly, while seeing the happy faces of the families she’s helping, Justinne cannot help but feel immense pride for her city as well. Indeed, her favorite aspect of volunteering with the Christmas Fund is “seeing how generous Richmond can be”.

    Volunteering with the Christmas Fund has even helped Justinne paint a different picture of poverty. “There’s no face to poverty,” says Justinne, “you never know who’s affected by poverty in your daily life.”

    Finally, Justinne encourages everyone to be open-minded, to not make any judgements, and to be kind because “anyone can go through a difficult situation.”

    During this holiday season, you are invited to join Justinne and donate your time to this great cause. We have many Christmas Fund volunteer opportunities. Please call us at 604-279-7035 or visit the Christmas Fund “How Can I Help?” page to find out how you can become involved.

    The spirit of Christmas starts here!

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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: August 2014

    Part of why the Wide World of Volunteerism series exists is to celebrate all the different forms of giving that happen every day around the world. Whether that means becoming a humanitarian worker, or participating in the #IceBucketChallenge, or tweeting in support of a cause that is dear to your heart, every form of giving adds up to a more caring world. Here to give us a glimpse of that world is blogger Ray Wang with this month's volunteer stories.

    World Humanitarian Day: Aid Workers Attacks And Killings Reaching Record Numbers

    According to a report by NGO Humanitarian Outcomes, there were 251 separate attacks on aid workers - with 155 killed, 171 seriously wounded, and 134 kidnapped - last year. This was a 66% increase compared to 2012. To show gratitude and to highlight the difference these workers have made in the world, the UN has launched Humanitarian Heroes: a website which focuses on the work aid workers perform and places where their work is most needed.

    4 Ways Social Media is Utilized for Social Good

    Image source: FuckCancer

    Social media is now a regular and important part of social movements and charitable campaigns. Examples of social media users include Vancouver’s very own Fuck Cancer and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation powerhouse. Social media for social good can also happen spontaneously and organically, as we saw with the Arab Revolution and around victim support during natural disaster aftermaths. With all the discussions and information being shared on digital platforms, it's evident that social media can no longer be a secondary consideration when attempting projects for social benefit.

    The 60 Best Celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge Videos

    From business tycoons Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates to celebrities Justin Timberlake and Robert Downey Jr., thousands of people worldwide are participating in the #IceBucketChallenge to raise awareness and fundraise for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Here are 60 of the best celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge videos!

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: August 2014

    September is a busy time of year for everyone, and it's no less so for nonprofits who are rolling out their fall campaigns. In this month's edition of blogger Ray Wang's Non-Profit Video Picks, we look at some upcoming September projects from the nonprofit world, as well as the ways in which organizations use social media to promote such campaigns to their supporters. 

    September Campaign 2014 - The Sahel Region

    Having clean water and health is the first step to escaping poverty. Clean water can change lives. This September, charity:water will launch a campaign to bring clean water to 100,000 people in the Saleh reigon of Mali and Niger – said to be one of the harshest regions on the planet. According to charity:water, 46% of Mali's and 58% of Niger’s rural populations lack access to clean water. To help, visit September Campaign 2014.

    The Social Nonprofit: David Suzuki Foundation Success Story

    Social media has not only helped brands connect with more consumers, but also helped nonprofits do more social good. The David Suzuki Foundation for instance, has used social networks and platforms to gain media exposure, launch successful marketing campaigns, and spread their vision of a healthy, sustainable planet worldwide. To learn more on how social media can benefit your nonprofit, read 8 Tips on the Effective Use of Social Media for Social Good.

    Giving back for back to school with Google Shopping Express

    With school just around the corner, Google has partnered up with Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack program in order to provide new backpacks and school supplies to homeless and at-risk children throughout Northern California. These back to school gifts will provide a sense of normalcy and help children start off the school year feeling prepared and confident.

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  • Shaping The Future

    Here's Volunteer Richmond Communications Coordinator Ryan Luetzen on 10 years of Youth Now. 

    On my desk, next to an empty bottle of cucumber melon hand sanitizer and a silver stress ball, there’s a photo. It’s of me, taken several years ago, in Tofino. I’m in a small forest clearing, my back to the camera, looking out over a calm ocean inlet towards a wooded island. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time, but if ever a location lent itself to deep contemplation, this was it. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I was pondering one of three things: the past, the present, or the future.

    Actually, you know what? I’ll narrow it down even further. I wasn’t thinking about the present, because really, who does? The present, for better or worse, kind of just happens. It goes by too quickly for careful analysis. Blink and it’s a memory, and then you’re just thinking about the past.

    So, as I stood there staring across the water, my thoughts must have been travelling either backwards or forwards. I was in my early twenties, so I’d lived life, at least a little. I had experiences I could look back on, fondly or otherwise. I may well have been thinking about the past.

    But it’s more likely that I was thinking about the future, as young people often do. When there’s so little behind you, it’s only natural to wonder what’s ahead, to envision who you’ll become, and what you’ll accomplish. That’s the benefit of being young: it’s all before you. And that means you can do more than merely think about your future. You can also shape it.

    This year marks the 10th anniversary of Volunteer Richmond’s Leadership Richmond – Youth Now program. As a staff member, I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but of all the programs we offer, it’s my favourite. And that’s saying a lot, because I think all of our programs are pretty awesome.

    Why do I hold Youth Now in such high regard? I’ll get to that in a second. In the meantime, how about I answer a simpler question: What is Youth Now? Well, basically, it’s a program that gives high school graduates under the age of 26 an opportunity to serve on a non-profit board of directors. During their time in the program, youth also participate in a number of leadership conferences, on topics ranging from board governance to fund development to strategic planning.

    The photo that inspired this article. Oh, and you'll notice that, in addition to hand sanitizer and a stress ball, my desk is home to a stuffed bear dressed in lederhosen. Just thought I'd point that out.

    For young people who, someday, want to play a leadership role in their community, Youth Now provides an invaluable experience. The program gives them a glimpse into a future that, to this point, they’ve only imagined. For the year they’re in the program, time shifts – someday becomes today.

    Participants, guided by a Board mentor, learn what it means to be a leader, in part by observing their fellow Board members, but mostly by working alongside them. The youth aren’t spectators, in other words; they’re actively involved in making decisions and setting policy. They’re even put in charge of a project, which can be anything from organizing a fundraising event to setting up social media accounts for their organization. It all depends on what they’re interested in.

    Participants leave the program with a new set of skills, or perhaps skills that they already had, but are now further developed. They’ve gotten to see – and experience – what leadership entails – the rewards, the challenges, the responsibilities. Simply put, they’re better prepared for the future.

    To me, that’s why the Youth Now program matters. When you’re young, and you think about your future, the possibilities are endless. It’s exciting, but also overwhelming, and even a little terrifying. It’s less terrifying, though, when you’re confident you have the tools to shape your future. Youth Now has been giving young people those tools for a decade.

    So, if you find yourself staring into the distance, wondering what the future holds, remember that you can do more than wonder. You can plan, you can prepare, you can start building today. And maybe the Youth Now program can help you do it.

    Applications for the 2014-15 Youth Now program are due August 29, though we’ll continue accepting applications after that until all spots are filled.

    Funding for the Leadership Richmond – Youth Now program is provided by Coast Capital Savings.

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  • Richmond is Pretty Cool #4: Local Musician Anna Toth

    Just because it's been awhile since our last installment of the Richmond is Pretty Cool series doesn't mean our city is any less so! Here to prove that is volunteer blogger Lillian Liao with a feature on local talent Anna Toth.

    “Why I write, why I sing, and why I perform” are the three questions that always linger on local musician Anna Toth’s mind as she navigates her way through maintaining a YouTube channel, performing at local shows, and establishing her position as an original, expressive and honest artist.

    Anna Toth’s professional music journey began on December 25, 2010 when she created her YouTube channel. The original goal was to use YouTube as a performance outlet for her already developed talent in songwriting and performance. Making use of an old video camera and a younger brother who could act as a cameraman, Anna filmed her first video and uploaded it onto her channel. This humble background was the beginning of what would become a solid platform for Anna to grow her audience.

    “I didn’t know how to act, where to look, or if I should say ‘hi’ to the strangers that would possibly stumble across my video,” Anna recalls of filming her first video. “I was pretty much the epitome of awkwardness.”

    Regardless of the nerves Anna felt when filming her first video, the habit of uploading performances is something Anna now humorously refers to as an ‘addiction’. At the end of that Christmas holiday, Anna managed to record three more videos. Just like any other budding musician, one of Anna’s motivating factors is the support she receives from her fans.

    “I hate to say it, but a huge motivating factor is the response videos get,” Anna explains.“When you see a video do well, it makes you want to upload another. It makes you want to reach out to more people and see where things can go.”

    For four years now, Anna’s YouTube channel has been constantly attracting more and more listeners from all across the world. Her growing fan base has led to the establishment of other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social media has allowed Anna to shorten the distance between artist and audience.

    “Social media has been a great tool to grow an audience. People feel more connected to you when they see inside glimpses of the songwriting process or of the planning behind a music video,” Anna explains. “When you can share thoughts and updates, it helps keep the idea of your work relevant to people even if you don’t have new musical content 24/7.”

    Even though her melodic journey has been largely documented on the web, Anna’s love for songwriting and performing extends far beyond her YouTube endeavors. Behind the screen, there is a young artist whose ambitions are rooted by a childhood surrounded with music and familial support. As a child, Anna grew up singing at open-mic performances with her father at the Britannia Shipyards in Steveston. It was also her father who taught her several chords on the guitar, inspiring Anna to explore her songwriting skills. With a guitar in hand, knowledge of a few chords and an optimistic attitude, Anna wrote her first song in grade four about “an annoying younger sister”.

    “Looking back now, I always laugh and blush at this first sloppy and immature attempt to form something with a melody. At the same time I realize that it was beneficial,” Anna recalls. “When you’re a little kid and you write songs, you have more of a support group because adults think it’s kind of cute, and you aren’t as self-conscious about coming across as stupid.”

    Even though the writing topics are now on an entirely different level, Anna’s approach to songwriting remains the same as she continues to draw inspiration from her personal life. Anna estimates that she’s been able to write more than fifty songs chronicling her real-life experiences. Reflectively, she admits that the ‘bad’ experiences are the ones that are golden in songwriting.

    “It’s a slightly melancholy observation, but I’ve noticed that the songs I’m most proud of are the ones that came from the result of a hurt of some sort,” Anna explains. “Frustration, loneliness, and heartbreak have probably been the most helpful emotions for me.”

    In this manner, Anna relates her songwriting process to a form of therapy. Using her personal experiences to help her grow as a musician, Anna puts her stories out for the public to hear in the most vulnerable and authentic way. It is this honesty that is at the core of her solid foundation with fans.

    “Listeners can identify sincerity when they hear it. I’ve received the most amazing messages from people,” Anna explains. “It’s the coolest thing to hear that people empathize and that people are grateful for the words that you write.”

    This emotional connection with her fans is magnified during live performances. Although Anna has been performing for a long time, she still gets nervous as the bar of expectations are raised higher during live shows.

    “You can feel the weight of everyone’s attention and the spotlight makes you very vulnerable,” Anna says. “On Youtube people choose to watch the videos they want and can exit a window as soon as they feel bored, but when you’re performing you realize that your audience has come here to see you and it means that you have to be that much more engaging and entertaining.”

    Despite the pressure that exists when playing venues, the possibility of forming a stronger connection with her fans makes the wager worthwhile.

    “I’d say the stakes are higher, but the rewards can also be better too,” Anna explains, “When you notice someone crying, smiling, or trying to make eye contact, you realize you’ve connected with them and it’s pretty cool.”

    This year, Anna will be taking time off from university to focus entirely on music. Improving as a performer, along with traveling and recording songs, are some of the goals Anna hopes to accomplish during this time. As a musician, Anna Toth is all about striking the perfect balance between artistic expression and forming a long-lasting bond with her audience.

    For Anna, the idea of success has a clearly defined meaning: “Success to me means building a reputation of consistent originality, quality, and depth with my fan base.”

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