Vol 'n' tell

The Official Blog of Volunteer Richmond Information Services
  • Community Block Party at South Arm Park

    Nothing says "neighbourly" like the words "potato sack race" and "human pyramid". At least, that was the case at the Neighbourhood Small Grants block party put on by Stephanie Shack and Isabel Angeles last September! Here's Stephanie with a recap on the event.



    When my coworkers and I heard that there was grant money available through the Neighbourhood Small Grants program to help bring our community together, we could not miss this opportunity to apply. We wanted to help strengthen connections within a neigbourhood where the most we knew about each other were the cars we drove.

    Together, Isabel and I sat down to create an invitation list, a promotion plan to spread the word about the event with the aim of including as many people in the community as possible as guests, an event timeline to guide the day, potential volunteers to help us create a successful event, a menu, a budget and a list of activities we could organize to make the day memorable. We put our plan into an online grant application and were approved to host a community block party.

    After finding the location (South Arm Park), we created an event page on Facebook and handed out event flyers to local businesses and community centres. The event took place on a bright sunny day, September 20th. All guests were given names tags when they arrived. The hot dog BBQ became a full-fledged spread as guests arrived with their own food contributions of popsicles, cupcakes, fruit trays and veggie trays. 

    The food was a hit followed by the most memorable part of the day - the games. During set up, we noticed that the balls for the ladder ball game were tangled. Two members of the community came over to help untangle the game and chat about their summer. There were enough kids in attendance that we broke the group into four teams to take part in a relay race that included cup stacking, three legged race, along with some games we borrowed including tug of war, ladder ball, and a potato sack race. The race ended with a pinata and medals for the top team. 

    At one point, a part of the ladder ball game was stuck in the tree. The kids had to work together to figure out how to retrieve it and ended up creating a plan that had them physically relying on each other to solve their problem. They created a human pyramid to retrieve the ball!

    Families were still chatting as we packed up the event at the end. In the week following the BBQ, we received some feedback by email from people who attended and have included some excerpts below:

    "Great event put on today. It was so nice to see a group of diverse personalities mix it up! I personally enjoyed the throwback years of potato sack races! That was priceless."

    "Thank you for a great day. I think everyone had a great time and bonded quite nicely together."




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  • Hot Ink for Girls: Creativity in Safe Spaces

    The Richmond Women's Resource Centre (RWRC) (our neighbour tenants in the Richmond Caring Place) have so many great programs, one of which is the Hot Ink program for teens. A lover of creative writing herself, volunteer blogger Lillian Liao spoke with the RWRC, Hot Ink founder Anita Law, and past participant Alexandra Tse to find out why this program means so much to young girls who are discovering their potential.

    At the end of each Hot Ink year, the participants compile their best work into zines, which are available for purchase at the Richmond Women's Resource Centre

    In January of 2008, the Hot Ink program began its first chapter. Six years later, the program has only began to write its story.

    Based out of the Richmond Women’s Resource Center, Hot Ink is a writing program aimed at helping teenage girls feel comfortable with expressing themselves through writing. This program runs parallel to the school year, providing a way for students to explore writing outside of the school setting by attending weekly sessions of Hot Ink. The sessions are structured around learning different writing skills, styles, and forms. In these sessions, a facilitator will guide the participants through a series of writing workshops that involve guest speakers, field trips, writing lessons, and writing exercises.

    Before any good story there is a prologue in which ideas can begin to take root. The vision for Hot Ink first came to founder Anita Law when she was given a financial grant and the opportunity to work with a NGO by starting a community project. A long time lover of creative writing, Anita decided to combine her passion for writing and her desire to contribute to the local community into a program that fulfilled the community’s need of having a safe space for young girls.

    “At that time I was taking a lot of classes with components of women and gender studies. I was learning about the concept of ‘safe spaces’ for minorities and vulnerable populations, and I thought a class focused on teenage girls would be perfect,” Anita says.

    Using her previous experience working with youth in high schools and teaching English to immigrant women, Anita was well prepared to transfer her ideas into a classroom setting. With the help of several high school teachers, the Hot Ink program began to take shape with the aim of achieving one specific goal:

    “The goal is to give girls confidence in their own ability to express themselves - to give them the confidence not only to do what they already know, but to grow and develop.” Anita says.

    This goal of fostering self-confidence within young girls resonated with the Richmond Women’s Resource Center, allowing the Hot Ink program to find a permanent home.

    “Our goal at the the women’s center is to provide a supportive environment in which women are able to achieve their potential. Hot Ink lines up well with the broader goals of the women’s center by providing a safe place for young women to develop confidence and self-esteem,” says RWRC coordinator, Florence Yau.

    Beyond just providing a safe environment, the Hot Ink program also provides a creative setting in which participants can write their own stories. Past participant Alexandra Tse recalls her time in the program as an unique, enlightening, and joyful experience.

    “All the participants happened to be very talented writers and we were very supportive of each other,” Alex says, “It was amazing to benefit from the creative energy that comes from sharing with and working within a group. I didn't have writer's block at Hot Ink.”

    This creative energy allows participants to foster a sense of community in which they can grow individually as a writer. The delicate balance between the individual and the communal resonated with participants, who found themselves forming connections with fellow participants - all while getting to know themselves better as writers.

    “One of the most rewarding parts of the program was to feel like I could be a writer. It gave me confidence in my own writing,” Alex says, “As a group, we produced a lot of writing to be proud of. I also made a lot of good friends. We all still keep in touch today.”

    These rewarding experiences did not come without challenges. Within the program, participants are asked to share their work with others in order to receive critiques that will better their writing skills. Alex recalls a feeling of apprehension and nervousness in opening up to the group.

    “It is a vulnerable thing to do - to share your work,” Alex says, “But the supportive environment of the group helped facilitate the sharing.”

    The anxiety that participant can feel when it comes to sharing their writing places further emphasis on the importance of having a safe environment. For founder and past facilitator, Anita, watching students overcome their apprehension of sharing their work was a highlight of her experience:

    “Having somebody feel safe enough to share something they’d just written off-the-cuff with people they’ve only had two sessions with, and seeing that trust develop as the term went on, was really special,” Anita says.

    Over the years, Hot Ink has further expanded its reach into the community. For RWRC coordinator Florence, one of the most significant changes was opening up the program to a larger age group.

    “When it first started, it was only offered to senior level students in high school. The program has since expanded to include grade 8 and 9,” Florence says, “There is a different dynamic when you bring in younger girls. We’ve been seeing a mentorship developing when mixing younger girls with senior level girls.”

    Another major change is currently taking place within the Hot Ink program. Previously, the program has always been held in high school classrooms. This year, the program will take place at the community library. Florence is looking forward to seeing how the change in setting will affect the participant experience. Looking even further into the future, Florence wishes to expand the program by connecting and collaborating with other community writing events.

    “If there is a writing competition within the community, we can encourage the participants to give it a try as a next step,” Florence says.

    In the six years the program has been running, Hot Ink, like any good story, has certainly made its mark on the community.

    “Time to time, we have returning Hot Inkers - students who have attended Hot Ink previously. They ask about when the next Hot Ink program will be,” Florence says, “Parents are now coming to ask about the program. They want to know whether there are any creative writing programs within the community.”

    For Anita, the longevity of the Hot Ink program is a sure sign of a need within the community for girls to have safe spaces to express themselves.

    “I think what happened is that I happened to hit on something that sustained the interest and addressed a need in the community,” Anita says, “When that happens, the program will find a way to keep going.”

    The story of Hot Ink is far from being finished.

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  • Giving Christmas Back: One Volunteer's Journey

    The Richmond Christmas Fund makes a difference to over 600 children every year. Every child that comes through the Christmas Fund can wake up to a treeful of presents on Christmas morning. They can go back to school in January with a joyful holiday story to tell. We're so fortunate that some of those children grow up to become Christmas Fund volunteers themselves. Anna (*name has been changed for privacy) is one such volunteer. We were immediately impressed with the eloquent and well-spoken young teenager and we asked if she would, in her own words, tell us what the Christmas Fund means to her.

    Everything can change at any given moment. There was a time when I didn't believe this. In the little world my younger self had created, change was a foreign, unfamiliar, unreachable, unknown thing. But now I realize that change is inevitable and imminent. You may wake up one morning and realize the sun is no longer a ball of fire hanging in the sky and that stars don’t actually twinkle. You'll realize how much has changed, and the distance of the winding path you took all the way to where you are now – where you stand in your mud-caked sneakers  was all determined by each and every little fragment of what I like to call Past.

    There was a point somewhere in my own past, where the Richmond Christmas Fund played a very significant role. It brought me to where I am now, what I am now, and especially, who I am now. Being a nine-year old immigrant from China, I was the perfect mixture of both curious and ignorant. My parents, having abandoned everything they’d made themselves to be, moved to Canada for the sake of my well-being, in the hopes that I would become someone better. This is something that I am grateful for beyond the boundaries of the universe. 

    But times were difficult and we had to start everything from scratch. My parents had to rebuild their lives. At the time, we weren't especially well off financially. Even as a young child I recognized this. We were always watching, saving, compromising, and to me, that was normal. And as my first Christmastime rolled around, I came to the conclusion that my family couldn’t afford to celebrate the holidays. My parents were apologetic, but I was too young to recognize this. This was where the Richmond Christmas Fund came in.

    I received a teddy bear that Christmas from the Christmas Fund. Of course, many of you might think, “It's just a small gift”, but it meant much more to me. Being new to a school, an environment, a community, a country a world, even  is exceptionally difficult. Everywhere was cold and unfamiliar. The sounds that my classmates made to communicate felt like insults – like daggers, and I am not afraid to admit that this posed as an extreme difficulty for me. 

    What the Richmond Christmas Fund did was make me happy. It was as simple and as momentous as that. I would finally have something to share with the class when school would begin again. This way, I made friends and I was happy. I received something from this unfamiliar environment, making it approachable. 

    I would be more courageous from then on; I would strive towards better places because I knew they existed. The Richmond Christmas Fund was how I was able to stand with my head high, my arms in the air, my eyes fierce, and my mind proud. Like the domino effect, the Richmond Christmas Fund put in that last push of events that resulted in my transforming into a new person in a new environment, ready to try new things.

    As the teddy bear I first received from the Richmond Christmas Fund still lies in the reserved spot in my pillows, I was reminded to come back, this time as a volunteer. I am here now to give back, to help spread the word about the impact and benefits of the Christmas Fund. I want to recognize the change that I went through and show to less hopeful individuals how change can happen in the right place at the right time. I want to show how organizations like the Christmas Fund can spark that change - and change you once and for all.

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  • 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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