Vol 'n' tell

The Official Blog of Volunteer Richmond Information Services
  • From Grandmother to Grandmother

    Social isolation is a major problem in modern cities. Communities need to feel connected in order to thrive. The Grandmother's Support Group at the Richmond Women's Resource Centre strengthens community one connection at a time by celebrating the power of peer groups for older women. Here to tell us more is volunteer blogger Amanda Oye.

    If home is where the heart is, and the heart is where your family is, where do you go when your family lives thousands of miles away? If you are lucky, you have a place like the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre’s Grandmother’s Support Group to turn to.

    “This group gives us an opportunity to meet new friends and get great information about community services. Even though we might not be able to use these services ourselves, we can pass the information along to others who can,” said Jennifer Xiao, one of the group’s members.

    There are currently more than 15 regular members, many of whom are immigrants. Meetings are conducted in Mandarin, and provide an opportunity to make new friends, share experiences, and discuss any issues or concerns that may come up in the members’ lives. 

    “It’s a really supportive group,” said the facilitator, Patricia Wang. “I can feel that in their hearts this group is very important to them.”

    All of the members of the Grandmother’s Support Group face a number of barriers in their daily lives, which can include those related to language, citizenship and living far away from their families and hometowns. The group meetings give them a place where they feel supported, and where they can learn about the resources available to them.

    Every meeting is different, but each typically starts with everyone chatting and catching up with fellow members, after which they sit down for tea and snacks. Language is the main barrier group members face, according to Wang, so they often spend time practicing their English, as well as sharing recipes, talking about their experiences and listening to presentations by guest speakers.

    The members are not the only ones who benefit immensely from the group. Wang is an immigrant from China, where her parents still live, so she counts on the group for support as much as they count on her. 

    “I feel like everyone is my mother,” she said. “In my heart, I have so much love for them.”

    The group meets twice each month from 9:30 am – 11:30 am. Anyone who is interested in joining can attend their first meeting for free, after which they need to sign up for a membership with the Women’s Resource Centre.

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  • The Power of Richmond Youth

    Richmond is a place where youth are making their mark, and the newly-formed Richmond Schools Youth Volunteer Association (RSYVA) is proof. We're delighted to let volunteer blogger Amanda Oye introduce you to some of RSYVA's directors - Beini Yin and Marco Yip. 

    RSYVA at the Richmond Leadership Showcase at Aberdeen 

    There is no need to lament the apathy of youth today – the members of the Richmond Schools Youth Volunteer Association (RSYVA) have already shattered that illusion. 

    RSYVA is what you get when you combine four volunteer clubs from across the Richmond School District that want to get more high school students excited about volunteering. 

    Their biggest selling point? Volunteering is actually really fun.

    “There’s no bad thing about volunteering,” said Marco Yip, a grade 12 student from Richmond Secondary. 

    In 2013, Marco got together with a few other like-minded students to create RSYVA. The association’s first members were Richmond Secondary’s Colts That Care, Steveston-London Secondary’s Jaws With a Cause, and Palmer Secondary’s Griffins That Give. 

    Burnett’s Breakers That Believe joined soon after when RSYVA began to reach out to other schools in the district to see if they were interested in starting volunteer clubs and joining the association.

    There is no president of this entirely student-run organization. 

    “We work more collaboratively,” said Marco. Beini, another RSYVA member, said that making the decision to operate without a president was very natural. 

    “Because we are all presidents of [the] clubs at our schools, it just felt natural to work as a group of presidents rather than having one main person,” she said. 

    Beini, a grade 12 student at Burnett Secondary, sees volunteering as a rewarding and fun experience. She was in grade 10 when Marco approached her to get a volunteer club going at her school. 

    She jumped at the chance because she “wanted to bring Burnett students a new perspective,” she said. She saw her classmates volunteering within her school and sometimes at Thompson Community Center, but not really stepping outside to other organizations in the city. 

    Her classmates have also been prone to viewing volunteering as a tedious task since they are required to volunteer to graduate, making it “more of a pressure than an encouragement,” Beini said.

    The members of the club she started, Breakers That Believe, have volunteered for a range of local causes including the Richmond Christmas Fund, the Richmond Food Bank, and the Salmon Festival.

    While the clubs all pursue their own volunteering initiatives, being a part of RSYVA gives them the opportunity to work collaboratively on bigger projects to get more high school students volunteering not only because they have to, but because they want to. 

    The annual RSYVA Volunteer Fair at Richmond Secondary School

    Two major projects they have organized have been an annual Volunteer Fair and a Youth Leadership Challenge, which Marco described as being like the Amazing Race, but with challenges to get youth thinking outside of the box.

    Marco and Beini are both graduating at the end of the school year, but still have high hopes for the future of RSYVA. 

    “Our goal is to have every single school have a volunteer club,” Marco said. 

    As someone who has been volunteering since he was in elementary school, Marco is well aware of all of the benefits that volunteering can have. His experiences as a volunteer have helped him build a lot of skills including leadership and management skills, which will benefit him moving forward. He has also had plenty of opportunities to meet new people and learn new things. 

    “I have a more open mind now,” he said. He wants others to see the benefits of volunteering as well, and to get involved. “Do it because of all of the positives, from building your resume to building leadership skills, and meeting new people … it is all beneficial,” he said.

    For more information about RSYVA, you can visit their Twitter (@rsyva2013) and Facebook pages.

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  • Ava's Christmas Fund Angels

    We received such a wonderful email from Sally Koldenhof last week that we decided to make her a guest blogger. Sally introduced us to one of the Richmond Christmas Fund's youngest supporters - her daughter Ava Koldenhof, who makes and sells beaded angels in support of low-income families in Richmond. Read on to learn more about Ava's work, and be sure to visit her webiste: Ava's Angels.

    I'm writing this on behalf of my 9 yr old daughter. For about a year, Ava, has been making beaded angels charms and selling them to earn money for charities.

    She started out by selling a handful to some friends and it has now turned into her taking orders from people, with one order requiring her to make 150 of them and shipping them to Ontario.

    She has always been a generous child and she quite often donates her birthday money to various charities.

    We have decided to make a website showcasing her beaded angel charms, but we want to make it clear to everyone that this is to help out a few of her favourite charities, the Richmond Christmas Fund being one of them.

    Our question - we were wondering if we could have permission to include a link on her "Ava's Angel's" website to the Richmond Christmas Fund? We want everyone to know where their money will be going when they purchase the angels.

    She has 4 charities the she has donated to before and would like to continue supporting by collecting up the money she earns from her sales and periodically donating to one of the charities that she will list on her site.

    Is this possible? It wouldn't be large amounts of money by any means but we are very proud of her and want to help encourage her generous spirit

    Thank you for your time,

    Sally (& Ava) Koldenhof

    See more of Ava's angel designs at: http://avasangels.wix.com/avasangels

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: September 2015

    In this month's Non-Profit Video Picks, blogger Ray Wang gives you two sides of the story: that of the generous and benevolent donor, and that of the lucky beneficiaries. It doesn't get any shorter or sweeter than this - just two stories about those that help, and those that are grateful for the good in the world. 

    In Case You Missed It: LeBron James Will Pay 1,100 Students’ College Tuitions

    The 2 time NBA champion is makes an impact on and off the court. In mid-August, LeBron James announced that through the LeBron James Family Foundation, he’ll help pay for 1,100 students to go to college. The total amount for this sponsorship is approximately $41.8 million. Way to go, LeBron Bron! #kingjames #tryingtomakeadifference 

    Celebrating 30 Years of Camp Goodtimes

    Camp Goodtimes is a pediatric oncology camp that provides a safety-focused, medically supervised, and fun experience for children with cancer and their families. This year marks their 30 year anniversary and the organization celebrated by committing to further ensure youth in BC and Yukon don't have to face cancer alone. Like many non-profit organizations, Camp Goodtimes is looking for helpful and energetic volunteers. If you’re interested in contributing to Camp Goodtimes’ cause, visit their volunteer page.

    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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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: September 2015

    There are so many different ways to approach a problem. In this month’s edition of The Wide World of Volunteerism, blogger Ray Wang first shows us how a vulnerable population can take matters in their own hands if given the chance. Next we are shown a situation that we all must take responsibility for – climate change, even when we ourselves aren’t (yet) falling victim to the effects. Following is a story on how design can improve the lives of those with chronic diseases. And last but not least, we use hard numbers to understand the extent of poverty in our North American neighbour, Mexico.

    Homeless People Plant a Huge Organic Garden, and Feed an Entire Shelter

    Image source: GOOD

    To help those with low incomes gain access to healthy food, a homeless shelter in Atlanta started growing their own vegetables. The garden features delicious veggie fare, including kale, carrots, chard, and squash. It is the hope that access to healthy foods will result in reduced consumption of processed meats and snacks. This improvement in healthy food sources will help residents of the homeless shelter live longer and better lives.

    Polar bear diving record linked to melting sea ice

    Image source: CBC

    Picture this: a scrawny polar. Yes – a scrawny polar bear. Due to global warming, ice floes are now melting, which means that polar bears no longer can hide behind them to stalk and hunt seals. Polar bears now must hide underwater– a new hunting technique polar bears have adopted - to capture seals. But the bears aren’t succeeding. As a result, many polar are now left hungry and starving. To help reduce global warming and save the polar bears, I suggest we starting take small steps such as avoiding bottled water, eating local food, and driving less.

    Compassionate new spoons and plates make it easier for people with Alzheimer's to eat

    Image source: CBC

    Eating – a simple activity that all of us enjoy daily - is a difficult task for those who have Alzheimer. “People living with dementia commonly spill their food, are left confused by intricate patterns on dinnerware and frequently eat less than they should out of frustration.” To help people with Alzheimer regain the joy of eating, Sha Yao, an industrial designer from Taiwan, created Eatwell. The product is described as "an 8-piece dining set that fosters mealtime independence for those who suffer from dementia.” The design has features such as curved spoons that make scooping easier and blue colours that make it easy to differentiate dinnerware from food.

    According to a study of the 34 member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mexico has the largest gap between wages and hours worked than other member countries. This disparity in wealth and wages is evident across Mexico's economic strata. According to OECD stats, Mexico's riches 10% earn over 30 times than the poorest 10% makes - making the countries the most unequal nation amongst OECD's 34 countries.

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  • A summer at Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives

    Every summer we are fortunate to welcome co-op students into the fold. What's it like to spend a summer with us? We have the down-low on good authority from one of our students in this blog post.

    The ginormous Richmond Community Services Database, one of the main projects for our summer students every year

    My main duty as a program assistant at Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG) is to update the organization's various information resources, including the Seniors Directory, Vancouver Coastal Health Seniors Resource Guide, our informational brochures, and my biggest project: the Richmond Community Services Database (CSD). The CSD is a great information resource which lists all non-profit or government agencies that serve Richmond residents. I recommend using it when looking for any information regarding non-profit organizations or government agencies. It is updated yearly so information is always accurate.

    Working for a non-profit organization means you are always working for a great cause. This is probably the biggest perk of a job in the non-profit sector - all the work you do is to help people! When you are contacting the 400th of over 500 organizations for an update this sentiment really pushes you through. Whether it is knowing the information you are updating will provide help to the public in finding services they need, or taking grocery orders and shopping at Safeway for seniors (as the lovely Seniors department here at RCRG does) you can always take pride in knowing you are providing services that people are in need of.

    From a career and work experience standpoint, another great perk of working in a non-profit is that the majority of organizations have smaller offices than companies and agencies in the private sector or government. This has great advantages for a co-op student. First, it is less intimidating to walk into an office for the first time when it is smaller. It is less intimidating and easier to learn about how the organization runs and everyone’s different roles, including where you fit in. 

    Also, the small office environment gives you the opportunity to help out in all different areas and departments within the organization. It is easy to ask someone in Finance, Communications, etc. if you can help out in anyway. By doing this you are able to sample all different areas of what makes businesses, organizations, or agencies run and find what you love. This is perfect for a student trying to figure it all out. I am even stepping out of my job duties by writing this blog post for all of you!

    A non-profit organization is a great way for a student to transition from school to the workplace. For any students out there looking for a co-op placement or smooth transition after graduation, give a non-profit a try! My time at Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives has been a rewarding and educational experience.

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  • Introducing Catherine Koo

    We are pleased to introduce Catherine Koo, whom we are fortunate to have as one of our summer students this year. Catherine is a Program Assistant with our Seniors Community Support Services department. Here she is now with a few words about her summer experience.

    My name is Catherine, and I am a summer co-op student working as a program assistant for Senior Community Support Services at Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG). I am currently in my fourth year at Simon Fraser University (SFU), studying human resources management and marketing at the Beedie School of Business. Born in Hong Kong but raised in beautiful British Columbia, my childhood consisted of fruit roll-ups, Beyblades, and Lizzie McGuire TV shows.

    I chose to apply for my current position initially because I have prior involvement volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society, SFU Summer Camps, and the City of Surrey, and those experiences have been extremely pleasant. I admire the values of these organizations, in that volunteerism brings people and communities together. Working in a non-profit organization has provided me with perspectives that you otherwise would not be able to obtain from working in a business setting.

    At RCRG, I am involved with the Senior Shopping Programs, Better at Home Services, and a tad bit of Community Action Ambassador activities. With the help of a very welcoming staff, I was able to quickly learn about all the senior community support services and get a sense of what the organization stands for - all within my first month of work. I also learned how to pronounce “Minoru Boulevard” correctly, that Safeway carries way too many types of apples, and the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist.

    During the remainder of my stay, I hope to continue providing services to the seniors living in Richmond, and to also gain a broader perspective of how to communicate and work with our volunteers and clients. So far, it has been an eye opening journey, and I am looking forward to learning much more at RCRG.

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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: July 2015

    This month’s featured stories about recovery and homelessness from blogger Ray Wang are at once sobering and uplifting. In this edition of the Wide World of Volunteerism, Ray gives us two stories and two very different ways of giving to those on the streets. We finish off with something more heart lifting – dreams coming true thanks to an unexpected benefactor.

    26 Year Old Recovering Addict Gives Haircuts to the Homeless, But That's Not All

    Every day, Nasir Sobhani celebrates sobriety and the victory over his drug addiction. But this success only led him to set his sights even farther. Eager to give back, Nasir spends every Sunday giving free haircuts to the homeless. Even more important than the haircuts however, are the moments of human connection that can occur between client and barber.

    This cool new sneaker solves a really important problem for people with disabilities

    Nike’s new sneaker, the Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease, uses a zipper that extends around the back of the shoe instead of laces, letting people with movement disabilities, stroke victims, and amputees "peel" it open easily using only one hand. The shoe is much more accessible as a result, and offers independence and freedom to those with diverse abilities.

    The idea for such a shoe was sparked by teenager Matthew Walzer, who wrote to Nike three years ago in the hopes that he would have a shoe that he could wear and remove by himself by the time he went to college. Matthew didn’t think that anything would come out of the letter, but today he is everything that he wanted to be – independent, free, and a college student!

    Typographic signs aim to help the homeless

    Hand-letterer Kenji Nakayama and Christopher Hope started a project called "Homeless Signs" where they give low-income people on the streets $10 and a unique, hand-lettered sign. The goal of the project is to raise awareness about poverty in Boston. The project leaders also chronicle the lives of those they meet on tumblr, in the hopes of bringing to light their personal struggles: http://homelesssigns.tumblr.com/

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: July 2015

    Blogger Ray Wang starts off this month’s Non-Profit Videos picks with a strong dose of perspective. The second featured video offers a pint-sized punch (or more accurately, lemonade), a drink which happens to come in a philanthropic flavor. And finally, no person can stay unmoved by our last story of minorities holding their hearts out to one another in a dangerous and hostile world. Perspective, punch, and poignancy – what more could you ask for from a blog post?

    First World Problems // Don't Take Life For Granted

    #FirstWorldProblems is a common hashtag used on social media to express “problems” sarcastically. For example, a person who can’t decide to eat sushi or a burger for dinner may tweet about the dilemma and include the hashtag, #firstworldproblems, in the tweet. Clearly, things like these aren’t problems. In this video, YouTuber QuietAssassin features a young homeless man who faces true societal challenges that many people in America struggle with today.

    A 10-Year-Old and Her Lemonade Stand for Change

    Vivienne Harr, a kind and ambitious 10-year-old, aims to set five hundred child slaves free by fundraising money through her lemonade stand. Her target was $100,000 and she met that goal quickly after 173 days. To continue her vision, Vivienne and her parents have started Make a Stand, a for-profit impact brand that sells bottled lemonade, to generate revenue and donate 5% of its net proceeds to leading organizations that help end child slavery.

    Muslim Nonprofits Raising Funds to Help Rebuild Black Churches

    To add salt to the wound after a deadly shooting in June in Charleston, South Carolina, which took nine black lives, eight black churches were burnt down in different southern states. To help rebuild the churches, three Muslim non-profit organizations: Arab American Association of New York, Muslim Arc, and Ummah Wide, have launched a campaign called Respond With Love to help fundraise money for rebuilding the churches. This sign of gesture illustrates the compassion and kindness that remain in the world today – despite the chaos.

    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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  • DIY Busy Bags for Pre-K and Kindergarten kids

    In addition to being a talented wordsmith, our volunteer writer Susan Young also happens to be a crafty mom! We asked her to share her experience with creating busy bags for her young child. But wait - what's a busy bag? We'll let Susan take it from here ... 

    When I first saw a post on one of my Facebook groups asking if anyone was interested in joining a busy bag exchange, I was immediately interested. I had no clue what busy bags were but I was keen on joining a group with a common interest and creating some toys which were educationally fun. So you ask, what is a busy bag?

    A busy bag is a child-friendly activity that fits inside a little bag (Zip lock bag) that can be pulled out anytime to keep your little ones busy, such as in waiting rooms, eating out at restaurants, or while traveling. Busy bags are usually DIY hand crafted projects that contain an element of learning. Luckily, I had the pleasure to share this exchange with a group of 9 talented crafty moms to create 9 bags for children, ages Pre-K to Grade 1 shown below.

    The 1st bag contained a felt ice-cream cone. It’s a very cute and simple creation made of colored felt, cut into ice cream and candy shapes. Your child could ask “What color do you want?” You could respond to your child by asking to build a color combination, afterwards pretend to eat it. Otherwise, sorting, lining them up randomly was another play option.

    The 2nd bag was called Sum-Thing’s Fishy. This bag contained 6 foam fish with paperclips, 1 magnet rod, 1 pond, and die. Kids would take turns catching the fish. The player with the highest total wins.


    The 3rd bag contained fuzzy straws and beads. Ideas for play were open ended. You could make bracelets, count, shape sort, or make patterns. Your child could practise eye hand coordination threading the beads.

    The 4th bag was food cut outs, to learn fractions. For younger children, it was like a puzzle for simple matching.




    The 5th bag was a felt ladybug with dots and numbers from 1 to 10. I made this bag so a child could place the correct dots for the number shown. Otherwise, they could count the dots and learn to recognize the numbers.

    The 6th bag was a baker’s kit with homemade playdough, cookie cutters, candles, spoon, wooden rolling pin, beaded cut outs, and cupcake holders. Your child could use their imagination and pretend to make anything.

    The 7th bag hadcolor matching using clothing pins and paint chips. You would match the clothes pin with the corresponding color. Your child could build good hand dexterity just practising pinching the clothes pins. As developing hand dexterity is the beginning of building strength and grip for writing.


    The 8th bag had colored chips for memory matching. Your child would turn the colored portion face down and flip each circle over to match.

    The 9th bag contained multi-colored craft sticks with velco at the ends. Your child could build shapes or letters by connecting them together.



    Most of us searched on Pinterest to get busy bag ideas. Pinterest is a visual social sharing site that allows you to search, manage, and bookmark large collections of themed images and content. You can build your own collection by pinning them for future reference or uploading your own content to be pinned by others. This site is great for getting inspiration and ideas for creating almost anything. There are many age-appropriate bag ideas which you can pin.

    Our goal was to assemble 9 of the same busy bags (Pre-K/Grade level) of $2 to $4 value. The end result, everyone would have 9 different bags after the exchange.

    What’s nice about this exchange is that everyone made a one-of-a-kind bag, using simple and inexpensive materials. It’s refreshing to see that imagination, motor skills, and concentration can all be accomplished playing with simple handmade creations. There were no rules or limits on how your child could play. They can make things up and play independently in a quiet environment while practising various skills. It’s also something that parents can do together with their child. I also liked the fact that you can take these bags anywhere, as it’s small and lightweight for transportation.

    My take away, from this experience is that I got a chance to connect with a few others in the community while sharing something I like to do - when I have the time to do it! However, it was fun and interesting to see each other’s creations and to see the fruits our labour - seeing the kids enjoy their new toys.

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