Vol 'n' tell

The Official Blog of Volunteer Richmond Information Services
  • Volunteer Pat Bulman and the Connections that Count

    There are so very many senior services available to Richmond residents. We can definitely all feel proud to be living in a community that provides so much support to our honoured citizens. It can sometimes be difficult, however, to navigate all the different services that are available, and to figure out all the various eligibility requirements. But as volunteer writer Benjamin Yong will tell us, that's where Volunteer Richmond's Senior Information and Referral service, and volunteer Pat Bulman, comes in

    Pat Bulman (second from left) with a happy recurring client who one day gave Pat a beautiful bouquet of flowers to express her gratitude! 

    As a Senior Information and Referral counsellor with Volunteer Richmond Information Services, Pat Bulman spends her time helping clients get information. Answering questions about anything from health to transportation to housing, she says, is surprisingly not all that different from her former career.

    “I was a legal assistant for many years. A lot of what I did was finding information and filling out forms — that was a big one. A lot of people look at a form and just blank out,” says Bulman.

    Now, her clients are seniors in the community rather than lawyers, and she has traded in legal documents for things like premium assistance applications and income tax forms. Working out of the Volunteer Richmond office in the Richmond Caring Place, Bulman is the only one left from the original team when the program launched over 10 years ago. She joined because an opportunity came up where she could use her experience to give back.

    “I had enjoyed working. When I retired, I was looking for some volunteer work and I heard about this program. I felt I would be using the same skills I used as a legal assistant and I decided to look in to it,” she says, adding those skills allowed her to hit the ground running when she started.

    “We provide information, that’s the biggest thing. If we can’t, we will refer them to another group that can. The kinds of questions that come up are about pensions and medical plans. Bus passes are very popular, and housing — but all we can do for housing is give them information, we can’t get people a place.”

    Sometimes, when a client visits a counsellor for something simple, other needs become uncovered. Bulman recalls a time when a woman came in for a bus pass and discovered she was also eligible for a guaranteed income supplement and lower premiums on her MSP plan, all from just having a conversation with her.

    “You help people make more use of the funds they have, and you make their life better. It’s a good feeling.”

    Although Bulman and the rest of the team have helped countless clients over the years, there are still those that fall through the cracks, saying that she often gets asked, “Why didn’t I hear about this before?” Volunteer Richmond tries to spread awareness through seminars and articles in the newspaper, but Bulman says there are still isolated folks, often struggling with low income, that need to be reached.

    The Seniors Information and Referral Program is a free service available to adults 55 years or older, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Volunteer Richmond office (Richmond Caring Place, 190-7000 Minoru Blvd) and at the South Arm United Church (11051 No. 3 Rd.). Counsellors offer a wide variety of information on topics relating to seniors including: housing, government pensions, BC Medical Plan, Fair PharmaCare, Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters, and much more. Additionally, volunteers can help clients complete government forms and/or access and print them. No referral is required. For more information, call 604-279-7020, email info@volunteerrichmond.ca, or visit www.volunteerrichmond.ca.

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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: March 2013

    Despite the overwhelming odds, solutions are being discovered every day for the biggest social issues of our time. The fact that infection rates for tuberculosis in Canada is so low should be incentive to keep working towards total eradication. The tremendous amount of food waste in America is finding new life through recycling thanks to one visionary company. And though access to clean water is still lacking for millions around the world (including some people in developed countries), a multitude of organizations and their thousands of supporters are making water access their focus. As blogger Ray Wang demonstrates in this month's Wide World of Volunteerism, no problem is too large for those who are willing to work for a better future.

    Harvest Power

    Photo credit: Harvest Power

    The United States throws out $180 billion worth of food each year, causing landfill strain and increased greenhouse gas methane. To tackle the environmental repercussion of this phenomenon, Harvest Power has invested in 40 plants across North America to transform food waste into renewable energy, soil, mulch, and natural fertilizer.

    5 Facts About Tuberculosis in Canada

    Roughly 1,600 Canadians are still diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) each year, despite our low infection rates. This not only affects the patients and their families, but also our economic development. Canada spent $74 million in 2004 fighting TB. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, that includes hospitalization, out-patient care, laboratories, drugs, and research. This prevents the Canadian government from allocating more money to other important sectors such as education or agricultural development. 

    To help alleviate tuberculosis so that people will be free of this life-threatening disease please support the Stop TB Partnership.

    5 Organizations to Support on World Water Day

    780 million people across the world still lack access to clean water today. This is equivalent to 22 times the Canadian population. To overcome this problem, five major social organizations: - charity:water, Water is Life, Water.org, Blood: Water Mission, and National Wildlife Federation - supported World Water Day on March 22, 2014. Together, these organizations educated people on the importance of clean water, what we need to do to preserve it, and how we can work towards ensuring universal access.

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: March 2013

    Facts are important to any social movement. Statistics can help to show the urgency around an issue or to paint a picture about living conditions. In this month’s Non-Profit Video Picks, blogger Ray Wang gives us the down-low on how World Bank databases can help non-profit organizations make calculated decisions, how the statistics on Alzheimer’s in Canada call for immediate action, and how the myth of overpopulation should actually be a wake-up call for saving more lives.

    How an Editor Uses World Bank Open Data

    “In God we trust, all others must bring data” – W. Edwards Deming. 

    World Bank Open Data makes information and statistics available so that non-profit groups, businesses, and other organizations can assess economic development in various countries. The availability of this data can help NGOs determine which regions require financial assistance, what the current trends and needs are, and how the global health and economic conditions have changed in the last several decades.

    Alzheimer's Risk for Women

    According to Alzheimer Society Toronto, 1 in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's or a related dementia. Within a generation, the number of Canadians with Alzheimer's or a related dementia will more than double, ranging between 1 and 1.3 million people.

    While there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s right now, we can still fight back by continue to research for a cure or by volunteering as First Link support volunteers with the Alzhiemer Society of B.C.

    You Decide: Save the People of Save the Planet #StopTheMyth

    What's more important? People or the planet? Answer: both. In this video, Melinda Gates takes apart the myth that saving lives equals straining the earth with overpopulation. In fact, when people are given the opportunity to live healthy lives free of poverty, population growth actually shrinks. 

    We need people on this planet to build magnificent architecture, produce heart-melting songs, and preserve rich cultures. And we must do it all while preserving a clean and sustainable environment. In order to save both, we need to reduce chemical, electronic, and food waste to lessen environmental damage. Moreover, we should keep a watchful eye on the current population growth rate since there are over 7 billion people worldwide right now! 

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  • Child Care Provider Profile: A Rainbow Family Child Care

    What started out for Merlita Delos Santos as a sidegig income supplement has evolved into a source of pride and joy. In this edition of our Child Care Provider series, Merlita offers practical advice on how to handle the little everyday details of running a business while celebrating the passion she has for child care.

    It doesn't get more colourful than this!

    What made you want to become a child care provider?

    At first I thought it would help me to supplement my family income while staying at home with my 3 year old daughter. Then I realized I was having fun, and I looked forward to attending workshops and meeting new people.

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

    My favourite part of operating a child care facility is watching the children grow and engage in the learning process. My least favourite is like many other providers: when parents are late with their payments.

    How do you promote your business?

    I promote my business through my website, house sign, business cards, word of mouth and referrals.

    What does professionalism mean to you?

    Professionalism means getting your facility ready for business every day on time, good telephone manners, the ability to discuss problems and challenges with the parents, and working as a team with parents.

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

    1. Working alone. To overcome this challenge, I manage my time and delegate some errands and responsibilities to my family members.

    2. When a child is hurt or a child is biting another child. It’s important to let the parents know that the child will be monitored closely if they are caught biting. If a child is hurt because of the set up, I discuss it with the parent and make changes if necessary.

    Children enjoying the winter sun at Rainbow Family Child Care


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

    Parents are looking for a child care provider who is professional, well mannered, trustworthy, and who can deliver what they promised. In my experience, I find that the fees and location comes before the childcare provider or the program. There are some parents who are looking for programs with a core component, even though it is not age appropriate.

    What’s your favourite activity to do with children?

    Spending time outside, gardening, singing and dancing.

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

    Yes, I keep in contact with two or more providers. I don’t think there is a cohesive child care community because I find that those from group care and preschools seem to pull away from Family Child Care providers.

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

    I think we have them all, it is just a matter of finding out when and where they’re available.

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

    Brace yourself. You must have patience and determination to succeed and overcome challenges.

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  • What’s In a List?

    Now more than ever, Richmond's youth are engaged with social issues and committed to making a difference. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Volunteer Richmond, where we have the privilege of working with young leaders who are part of our Youth Now program. We were excited to learn last week that two of our Youth Now leaders were featured in the Richmond Review, and we're so proud of them that our Communications Coordinator Ryan Luetzen decided to send them our congratulations in this blog post.

    Akaash and Dayah at the 2013-14 Youth Now Launch Ceremony, held this past September 

    This past Friday, the Richmond Review published its 5th Annual 30 Under 30 edition. We always look forward to it, because reading about the brilliant young people who are putting Richmond on the map is pretty darn inspiring. Musicians and athletes, artists and filmmakers, entrepreneurs and health professionals – in every conceivable field, our community is bursting with talent.

    We admit, however, that when we flip open the paper and go through the list, we don’t read all of profiles right away, because we’re looking for names. Not just names that we recognize – truth be told, we recognize most of them – but names that have a special connection to Volunteer Richmond. This year, there were two: Akaash Bali and Dayah Johal.

    Akaash and Dayah are participants in our Youth Now program, which gives high school graduates under the age of 26 an opportunity to serve on a non-profit board of directors. Currently, Akaash is serving on Volunteer Richmond’s board, and Dayah on Gateway Theatre’s.

    Of course, their involvement with Youth Now isn’t why Akaash and Dayah were named to the 30 Under 30 list.

    Akaash is a third-year student at the Sauder School of business, and will intern this summer at global professional services firm KPMG, with eyes towards one day becoming a partner. He also co-founded, with his brother Rohit, The Young Investor Program, which teaches students about financial literacy.

    Dayah, meanwhile, is the district manager for the Young Entrepreneurship Leadership Launchpad – YELL for short – which, beginning in the 2014/15 school year, will offer a course in which high school students can learn the ins and outs of starting and running a successful business. The initiative was co-founded by another 30 Under 30 alumni, Amit Sandhu.

    So yes, both Akaash and Dayah deserve their place on the 30 Under 30 list, regardless of their connection to Youth Now. Nonetheless, there is a pattern emerging. Last year, two other Youth Now alumni – Natasha Jung and Corinna Chan – made the list as well. It can’t be a coincidence, right?

    We’d like to think that the program plays an important role in nurturing potential. In fact, it doesn’t just nurture potential; it gives young people one of their first opportunities to truly realize it. What Youth Now is about, and what is reinforced by the 30 Under 30 list, is a belief that youth don’t have to wait in line. They have ideas and talent and drive. They’ll do amazing things in 10, 15, 20 years time, no doubt. But they’re also capable of doing amazing things today.

    Youth Now is a channel through which young people can make an impact – in this case, with community organizations. We’re incredibly proud to be able to offer that opportunity, just as parents and coaches and teachers and mentors should be proud for offering guidance and encouragement. Just as other organizations whose programs give youth a chance to excel should be proud.

    We can all take pride in the 30 Under 30 list. It’s a list of individuals, yes, but it’s a list about our community. We must be doing something right, because our youth certainly are.

    The Youth Now program is funded by Coast Capital Savings.

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  • Through the Tough Times Together

    Everyone should have somewhere to turn to when they need help. When seniors are experiencing worry, frustration, and/or loss, they can turn to our Senior Peer Counselling program - a free, no-referral-required counselling service for Richmond seniors. Recently, Volunteer Richmond received a very pleasant email thanking Peggy Tang (a former Senior Peer Counsellor volunteer, now Volunteer Richmond's Better at Home Coordinator) for all the help she provided as a counsellor to a family who had recently immigrated to Canada. The family's story was so touching that we want to share it with you on our blog. It really shows how even making a difference to just one person can sometimes be all the difference in the world.

    We believe that no senior should have to struggle alone. If you know someone who may benefit from Senior Peer Counselling, please contact our office at 604-279-7020 or info@volunteerrichmond.ca.

    Peggy with a senior peer counselling client

    Dear Volunteer Richmond,

    I am writing here to express our deepest appreciation for all that your Seniors Community Support Services have done for our family.

    My mom came from China a year ago with my dad as new immigrants. They wanted to join me in Canada and to reunite the family. It was a big change for them to start a new life in a new country while they were both in their 80s. They had no friends here besides family. They found their new life quite challenging and they experienced the emotional ups and downs. It was especially tough for my mom - she has to take care of my dad and all his daily needs because he uses a wheelchair. The pressure was intense for my mom. She wasn't sure if she should go back to China or stay here.

    Half a year ago, my mom started to receive Senior Peer Counselling services from Volunteer Richmond. My mom was very lucky to have Peggy’s help.

    Peggy came to our home regularly. She went from being a total stranger to someone my mom considers a good friend. My mom likes to talk about everything with Peggy: her frustrations, her worries and her happiness. She shares her thoughts through emails with Peggy as well. I can tell that my mom was very happy every time after seeing Peggy. Talking to Peggy helped my mom to feel less stressed. Before my mom received Peggy’s help, she was confused about what to do in the future. She was not confident living in a new environment with all of the challenges. 

    Peggy provided a lot of useful information about government senior services to my mom and she answered lots of questions about senior living in Canada. Peggy also took my mom to home care support courses at community centres. All of these helped to make my mom feel less worried. My mom feels more confident and comfortable living in Canada now.

    Our family is very happy as a result of the Seniors Community Support Services. Peggy’s hard work paid off. She helped my mom through a tough time.

    Peggy’s professionalism impressed us very much. Peggy has excellent communication skills and she is a good listener as well. It's clear that this is more than just a volunteer job to her - she also shows her warm heart, kindness and compassion. She is a very pleasant person with positive attitude. She makes my mom feel like an old friend with whom she can share all her thoughts. She has been doing a great job! Now as we come to the end of my mom's counselling sessions, my mom says she is going to miss seeing Peggy a lot. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate Peggy’s help. She volunteered her time, her talent and her big heart. My mom is very grateful for all of Peggy’s hard work.

    We would like to thank the Seniors Community Support Service. Senior Peer Counselling is a great program that really makes a difference in our community. We believe many families like ours benefit from this program.

    Once again, thank you very much for assigning Peggy’s help to our family. Please give Peggy our biggest thanks!

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: February 2014

    In this month's Non-Profit Video Picks, blogger Ray Wang will keep you up to date on how innovative new technology is helping to make an impact on our world. In our first story, WWF and their partners are using microchips to prevent species extinction in Kenya. Next, a story on how development, education, and health services can all be improved just by introducing internet access. Finally, a story on how an app can help to keep you on top of your health goals. Here's just the tip of the iceberg on how technology is helping to change our world for the better in this month's Video Picks.

    WWF working with KWS to protect Kenya's rhinos

    To combat poaching, Kenyan Wildlife Service has begun installing micro-chips in the horns of black rhinos. The microchips help the wildlife service team monitor the black rhinos’ movement and track the horns in case they are poached. This will increase the team’s chance of protecting rhinos and prosecuting poachers. To learn more about WWF’s effort in reducing illegal wildlife trade, visit their website

    Development Could be a Click Award in the Arab World

    While 80% of Canadians have Internet access, less than 18% of the Arabic population are connected to the internet. This limits their access to educational resources, health information, and connection to the rest of the world. Not only that, it suppresses their economic growth and social development. If you want to learn more about the pivotal role that Internet access is playing in the Middle East and North Africa, check out the World Bank’s report.

    MapMyFitness, The App That May Know More About Your Health Than Your Doctor

    Just like accountants and marketing analysts, doctors can benefit from having cold, hard data on their patients' health conditions. By using MapMyFitness, a fitness app for recording statistics on diet and physical activity, doctors can gain access to valuable health information on their patients. This can help doctors and patients prevent, monitor, and even fight diseases such as diabetes by ensuring the patients are keeping up a healthy lifestyle.

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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: February 2014

    The first step to social change is education. What are the issues, what can be done about them - and should we be bothering at all? Why should it matter to us, and is it possible to make any change at all? Without education, we wouldn't where to start, or why. In this month's edition of the Wide World of Volunteerism, blogger Ray Wang shows us how charitable work such as that from philanthropist Bill Gates has already been making huge strides both to individual lives and to the global economy. Next, a revolutionary new idea for developing tomorrow's world leaders. Finally, we end with a commendation to students, teachers, and parents who together walked out of school 50 years ago, and in doing so, gave the world an important and lasting piece of education on equality and social justice. 

    An Open Letter From Bill Gates

    Photo credit: Mashable

    Providing aid to developing or local communities isn’t as expensive as we think. According to Bill Gates, it only takes $30 to protect 120 children from measles. This not only helps young children survive, but it also gives them a chance to thrive in school. Eventually they will join the workforce, which will boost the global economy in the long run. Contrary to the common belief that health aid is expensive and unnecessary, Gates believes that we’re getting a bargain when we consider the many lives that are saved and the significant future returns.

    This Online Course Will Teach You How To Change The World

    Photo credit: Mashable

    With the launch of a free MOOC (massive open online course), philanthropists and social changemakers can now learn about climate change, gender equality, education and other important global issues from the comfort of their homes. Students will be able to share innovative ideas, and most importantly, develop strategies for concrete action. This will help activists to create solutions for some of the world`s most pressing social issues. To register for the free course, please visit Coursera.

    Almost Half of New York Schoolkids Walked Out of Class 50 Years Ago to Protest Segregation

    While people today are more open to cultural differences, our society 50 years ago was less accepting of different ethnic minorities. To combat this discrimination, over 450,000 children stayed at home on February 3, 1964 to protest racial segregation in schools. Organized by Bayard Rustin, an American civil rights leader, students and teachers together protested the racial segregation in public schools of African Americans and Puerto Ricans. Not only were racialized students segregated, but they also received an inferior education due to overcrowded classrooms and subpar curriculums. By participating in the protest, students and teachers were able to convince President Lyndon Johnson to outlaw major forms of discrimination in the States.

    Photo credit: Queens College Civil Rights Archives

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  • Worth the Trip

    This past year, volunteer writer Amanda Oye spent a lot of time covering the Christmas Fund. She wrote a total of four blog posts, on Steveston Beer Fest, the student group who decorated our toy room, Windows of Hope, and the Christmas Dine & Dance. She also spoke with Christmas Fund clients and, with their permission, shared their stories, the first of which we published in January. This is the second. We always say that, without our amazing volunteers, the Christmas Fund wouldn't exist. Well, without Amanda, its stories would never be told. 

    Moving across the country is always difficult. Moving across the country with a young child as the holiday season fast approaches is especially challenging.

    A recent big move, like the one made by Katie* from Ontario, is just one of many reasons she sought help from the Richmond Christmas Fund this past year.

    Katie moved to Richmond in November to be closer to her family, who have been living in the Lower Mainland for the past eight years. While Katie has been out to visit a few times, they have not been together as a family for the holidays for all of those eight years.

    While the prospect of Christmas with loved ones was exciting, when Katie moved she was still concerned that she would not be able to give her son the Christmas he deserves.

    “I felt terrible,” she said. “He’s only five so he wouldn’t understand that mommy is out of work, that mommy can’t afford to buy him things.”

    Among the many Christmas Fund events Amanda covered in 2013 was Steveston Beer Fest, held October 5 at
    the Gulf of Georgia Cannery.

    With the help of the Christmas Fund, this year was memorable for both of them.

    “It was amazing,” Katie said. “My son was really happy…to see the excitement on his face was just indescribable,” she said.

    He got a few different gifts, but the one he loves the most is a set of building blocks. “He’s making tons of different things out of those every day,” Katie said. “He loves it.”

    After opening gifts Christmas morning, they had a nice family breakfast and then dinner with friends. The best part of the holidays for Katie this year, besides being able to see the joy on her son’s face, was “being with my family after all these years,” she said. “I love being here all together.”

    Thanks in a large part to the Christmas Fund, this first holiday season back with loved ones was filled with happy memories for Katie.“I’d like to say a big huge, grateful thank you to the Richmond Christmas Fund,” she said. “Without [the Christmas Fund], I don’t know what I would have done.”

    *Name has been changed

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  • A Good Start

    The reasons why somebody might need the Christmas Fund are specific and personal. Usually, though, it comes down to a lousy year, an unlucky month, or a bad break. It's those times in life that we all experience, hitting harder for some than others. The Christmas Fund provides support to the hardest hit. As volunteer writer Amanda Oye found out, the expectation among Christmas Fund clients isn't that the program will make a lasting difference. Rather, they see it as a turning point towards a better year, luckier months, and, finally, a few good breaks.

    In the early days of December, hundreds of people make their way over to Volunteer Richmond to sign up for the Richmond Christmas Fund. For them, this is an important part of getting ready for the holiday season. Various life circumstances have compelled each of them to seek out help from the Christmas Fund to make the holidays special.

    Through the Fund, those who registered received, among other things, gift cards for grocery stores and toys for their children.

    Snow falling on a Christmas Fund sign outside our office at the Caring Place.

    Cassandra* was one of the many who needed a helping hand this year. She has been using the Christmas Fund for several years now – from when her now-grown daughter was young and she became a single mother.

    “The winter months are harder to raise a child on your own,” Cassandra said. This year, she is experiencing health issues and is unable to work, so the Christmas Fund went a long way in terms of helping her out with groceries.

    “It’s a nice relief to have some extra support,” she said. “It has brought some Christmas spirit to me.”

    Cassandra spent this past Christmas “just getting together with family and with friends,” she said.

    On Christmas Day she helped a friend who is going through cancer treatment cook a turkey dinner. A week later, when everyone was able to get together, her family had their big Christmas dinner. “It turned out pretty good,” Cassandra said.

    “[The Christmas Fund does its] best to make it a good start to the New Year and end of the year ... and I think people appreciate it – I appreciate it, anyways,” she said.

    “It’s nice that others are helping others.”

    * Name has been changed

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