Vol 'n' tell

The Official Blog of Volunteer Richmond Information Services
  • Welcoming Winter - A Block Party at Springs

    Brad Forlow and Darren Lof know how to throw a party! We were delighted when they approached us with their Neighbourhood Small Grants idea. Here's Brad himself with a recap on his neighbourhood block party. Neighbourhood Small Grants in Richmond is made possible by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, a collaboration between Volunteer Richmond Information Services and the Richmond Community Foundation.



    We often hear from those in the neighbourhood that they no longer know their neighbors. We desired to create an event that would foster a sense of community and that would provide a fun atmosphere to meet and talk with neighbours.


    Welcoming Winter was a community dinner and block party designed to bring people of all ages together from the Springs Neighbourhood. The event was held at the Manoah Steves Elementary School gym on Friday, November 28, 2014 from 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm. The winter-themed decor and the Christmas music created a festive environment. 


    Massive Wall-E and Nemo bounce houses were the focal point of the block party for the children. Children were lined up for these all night. Many kids must have been worn out by the end of the night! Tables with coloring sheets kept many younger kids occupied. Children of all ages left with beautifully painted faces.


    The hot hearty vegetable soup (with salad and bread), coffee, and hot chocolate were greatly enjoyed on a very cold night. The popcorn machine and snow cone machine were also a hit for kids and adults of all ages.

    The event was very well attended. We estimate approximately 250 people attended. We received many compliments and positive feedback for hosting a well-organized community building event.

    The Welcoming Winter dinner and block party was promoted in the neighbourhood by delivering invite cards door to door to ensure people of all ages were invited. The event was also advertised to the students at Steves Elementary School by an electronic distribution of the flier. The event was further promoted on the Springs Neighbourhood Facebook page and shared on the Steves Elementary School PAC Facebook page.


    We are extremely grateful to the Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grants Program for providing the opportunity for us to host a community-building event in our neighborhood. We displayed fliers acknowledging the Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grants Program throughout the gym.

    The grant covered the expenses for the decor, food, and the facility. St. John’s Richmond graciously donated all of the bread for the dinner. River Community Church (Steveston) donated the bounce houses, popcorn machine, popcorn, snow cone machine, snow cone syrup, and the materials for the fliers and invitation cards.

    We are also extremely grateful to all the volunteers who helped distribute invitations, cook and serve the food, run the popcorn and snow cone machines, staff the bounce houses, and set up and take down everything involved in executing the event. The event would not have been a success without all those willing to give of their time to serve their neighbours.


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  • Child Care Provider Profile: Mustard Seed Children's Daycare

    One of the newer childcare providers in the area, Mustard Seed Children's Daycare works to provide a stimulating environment for children to play and learn. In this edition of the Child Care Provider Series, Felix Li discusses the challenges of providing quality childcare at affordable rates and building a new business to meet the needs of one's community.

     
     
    Where little seeds grow into tall trees!

    What made you want to become a child care provider?


    We became a child care provider because we saw the need in the community, especially in the coming future. It is important to be involved in one's society and we want to provide the best service for parents in taking care of their loved ones. 



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


    My personal favourite part of operating a child care facility must be to see the children growing up healthy and happy. The children give me the most joy over anything. My least favourite part is seeing them leave. Usually we will not see them again, and that is heart-breaking. 



    How do you promote your business?


    I believe there is always room for improvement. Our Centre is new and there is always more to learn in running a business. However, we are young, eager, and full of ambition. We have worked to have a good relationship with our staff and with our parents. We want to work to make this centre more suitable for different families.



    What does professionalism mean to you?


    In a child care facility, a child’s safety and health are the most important. Our teachers are professionals. They can take care of a child’s daily needs, including the physical or psychological. We believe we are responsible for the children’s growth and that this is our mission in life - that is what professionalism means to me.



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


    The difficulties usually come from finance. We do not want to charge parents more than they can afford, but at the same time we need to balance out our expenses and salaries. We hope to provide parents the best child care services at the most affordable cost.



    A fun and colourful learning environment!
      

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


    I find that this can vary. Some parents look for academic growth in a child learning in terms of mathematics and languages, etc. Some parents focus on the centre’s cleanness, space, safety, and outdoor environment. Other parents consider more about the teachers’ quality and enthusiasm towards taking care of their children. 



    What’s your favourite activity to do with children?


    My personal favourite activity is circle time where I can sing songs, read stories, and play mini games with them. I love being surrounded by children and catching all their attention. It is just wonderful.



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


    I do keep in contact with some other child care providers as well as teachers in other facilities. I think we can learn from each other and improve and I believe all facilities can work together to provide services for the community in Richmond.



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


    No, I think that we have the services we need right now.



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


    For teachers, they should try to work in different facilities to see the difference and learn from each one.
    For parents, take more time to pay visits to different daycares to find the most suitable one for your child.
     


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  • Sensory Workshop With Educators

    After hosting An Evening of Sensory Play, Alexis Alblas and Stefanie Tong decided to extend their childcare knowledge to other child caregivers by inviting Early Childhood Educators to participate in a Sensory Workshop With Educators. This October 28, 2014 event was the second installment of their Neighbourhood Small Grants project. Here's Stefanie's recap of the event. Neighbourhood Small Grants in Richmond is made possible by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, a collaboration between Volunteer Richmond Information Services and the Richmond Community Foundation.


    Stefanie Tong and Alexis Alblas


    This past Tuesday evening, Alexis and I were joined by Early Childhood Educators and students as we explored sensory materials together. I think we’ve started a tradition of playful selfies at our workshops. The feature image was taken after our workshop with us hiding behind a mountain of shaving cream we created. If you haven’t used shaving cream purely for the sensory experience of massaging it through your hands, I highly recommend it.


    The evening began with a sit down seminar/discussion period where we brainstormed types of sensory play, barriers of offering sensory play in the classroom and solutions to those hindrances. There were so many good ideas about recycling materials, which dollar stores carried certain materials, wholesalers and offering a variety of activities for children.


    We had the educators pair up with someone from a different centre prior to entering the play space. Educators were encouraged to play like children would, their partner would be documenting how they played, what they said and the types of materials they chose to use, fifteen minutes later, they would switch roles.


    The group of ladies and one gent played a lot more carefully than the children did with the same materials offered two weeks ago. “Do we play in one area? Can we move around the room?” Immediately, the adults were asking permission to play a certain way. We watched as the pairs:


    – explored potion mixing with shampoos and conditioners
    – created shaving cream patterns
    – poked playdough
    – manipulated light and reflections
    – ran fingers through salt
    – massaged water beads
    – smeared cornstarch finger paint
    – poured sand
    – danced with fabric
    – cut, smell and create flower arrangements


    While everyone in the room was busy documenting their partner, I took down a few notes of my own. Besides noticing how neat everyone was playing, I captured a little dialogue:


    “What is this?”
    “Can I use this?”
    “Sorry, this is so wasteful.” (While squirting shaving cream)
    “Which one is open, I don’t want to open a new one.”
    “Do play here?”

    As adults, I think we often play by the rules. Rules which we have somehow created along the way, rules that our children do not have, which allow them to explore freely without inhibitions. May we all find our inner child today and explore everyday materials with new found curiosity. Thank you so much to Vancouver Foundation, Volunteer Richmond, Richmond Community Foundation and Ulferts Kids for helping to make this workshop happen, and for allowing us to play! For more pictures from this workshop, please visit our Facebook Page.



    Originally posted on ece mom



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  • An Evening of Sensory Play

    We've been so excited by all the Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) Projects that have been happening in Richmond. The one put on by Stefanie Tong and Alexis Alblas however, might be the messiest project to date in the history of NSG! Here's Stefanie herself to tell you about an evening of sensory play that happened last October 21, 2014. Neighbourhood Small Grants in Richmond is made possible by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, a collaboration between Volunteer Richmond Information Services and the Richmond Community Foundation.


    Alexis and I had the pleasure of teaching our first Sensory Workshop, made possible through the Neighbourhood Small Grants program from Vancouver Foundation, Volunteer Richmond, and Richmond Community Foundation. We were so happy to be joined by 13 families who participated in play experiences, and were fascinated to witness children immerse themselves in the sensory materials – literally!



    My phone rang at about 2:30p that afternoon, Alexis on the other end double checking all the materials we needed to gather for the evening. “I’ve got my trolly loaded up” she told me. I was in the midst of making four batches of cornstarch paint and knew that we had an evening of fun ahead of us. “We get to play in an hour” I said. During set up, that’s exactly what we did! The photo above is us manipulating our reflections, and I of course, had to stop to document the moment. Over dinner we finalized notes for the workshop and prayed that everyone coming would have a good time. We also asked God for some superpowers to help us deliver this information that had been in our hearts for the past few months.

    Our workshop began by asking parents of their first play memory. It was fascinating to hear that many had a sensory component to them and that ALL of the play memories were open ended, child led, play. We brainstormed on what the hindrances are to offering sensory play at home and collectively found solutions while sharing stories of our children. With child development being our passion, Alexis and I were thankful for the opportunity to share how sensory play can help children in their cognitive, social, language and physical development.



    Before we knew it, it was time to invite the children into the room to explore all the materials with their parents. I wish I had the time to document what was happening in the room! With 16 children ages one through eleven, we had a busy room filled with many play experiences.

    We watched children and adults:
    – manipulate light
    – explore reflections
    – poke, prick, squish, slam, toss and roll playdough
    – delicately cradle the water beads and a moment later, squish and bounce them
    – mix, pour, measure, squeeze shampoo and conditioner to create potions
    – use their hands to create paintings
    – swirl, swoosh, hold, squirt, and mix shaving cream
    – pour, scoop, and scrape sand
    – trace, scoop, and pinch salt
    – grab, mix, pick and scoop bark mulch
    – lick, bite, and smell at our tasting station (a.k.a. snacks)

    I have so many favourite moments from this evening, but the ones that stood out were hearing the children say “this is so much fun” and “look! look at me!” to their parents and being able to see parents play along side their children. And what excited me most, was that no one was worried about making a mess! More photos of our evening can be found on our Facebook page. We are less that two weeks away from presenting the Educator version of this workshop. Looking forward to seeing more messes remnants of play.Alexis and I had the pleasure of teaching our first Sensory Workshop, made possible through the Neighbourhood Small Grants program from Vancouver Foundation, Volunteer Richmond and Richmond Community Foundation. We were so happy to be joined by 13 families who participated in play experiences, and were fascinated to witness children immerse themselves in the sensory materials – literally!

    My phone rang at about 2:30p that afternoon, Alexis on the other end double checking all the materials we needed to gather for the evening. “I’ve got my trolly loaded up” she told me. I was in the midst of making four batches of cornstarch paint and knew that we had an evening of fun ahead of us. “We get to play in an hour” I said. During set up, that’s exactly what we did! The photo above is us manipulating our reflections, and I of course, had to stop to document the moment. Over dinner we finalized notes for the workshop and prayed that everyone coming would have a good time. We also asked God for some superpowers to help us deliver this information that had been in our hearts for the past few months.

    Our workshop began by asking parents of their first play memory. It was fascinating to hear that many had a sensory component to them and that ALL of the play memories were open ended, child led, play. We brainstormed on what the hindrances are to offering sensory play at home and collectively found solutions while sharing stories of our children. With child development being our passion, Alexis and I were thankful for the opportunity to share how sensory play can help children in their cognitive, social, language and physical development.

    Before we knew it, it was time to invite the children into the room to explore all the materials with their parents. I wish I had the time to document what was happening in the room! With 16 children ages one through eleven, we had a busy room filled with many play experiences.

    We watched children and adults:
    – manipulate light
    – explore reflections
    – poke, prick, squish, slam, toss and roll playdough
    – delicately cradle the water beads and a moment later, squish and bounce them
    – mix, pour, measure, squeeze shampoo and conditioner to create potions
    – use their hands to create paintings
    – swirl, swoosh, hold, squirt, and mix shaving cream
    – pour, scoop, and scrape sand
    – trace, scoop, and pinch salt
    – grab, mix, pick and scoop bark mulch
    – lick, bite, and smell at our tasting station (a.k.a. snacks)

    I have so many favourite moments from this evening, but the ones that stood out were hearing the children say “this is so much fun” and “look! look at me!” to their parents and being able to see parents play along side their children. And what excited me most, was that no one was worried about making a mess! More photos of our evening can be found on our Facebook page. We are less that two weeks away from presenting the Educator version of this workshop. Looking forward to seeing more messes remnants of play.


    Originally posted on ece mom.


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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: October 2014

    If you're feeling nostalgic for October, then have we got the thing for you. Here's a belated Non-Profit Video Picks in case you want to #TB to pumpkin month. Stories by blogger Ray Wang.


    Kiva: Funding the World's Entrepreneurial Ambition, One Micro-Transaction at a Time


    Kiva is an online micro-loan platform which connects lenders to borrowers. A farmer in Mongolian can go on Kiva to request a micro-loan so he can purchase organic fertilizer for his farm. A lender can go on the platform to make the loan. In the last decade, Kiva has crowd-funded over 1 million loans totalling almost 500 million dollars.


    Kiva’s success didn’t happen overnight or by accident. In this video, Premal Shah, President at Kiva, shares how Kiva has leveraged the adoption of the Internet and mobile devices to achieve success.



    The Pros and Cons of Starting a Non-Profit (Video Link)


    Contrary to popular belief, a non-profit organization can make a profit. A non-profit organization can sell products or services to generate revenue and use the income to make a social impact. Leila Janah, Founder and CEO of Samasource, a non-profit social business that gives digital work to impoverished people around the globe, shares how her organization uses and will continue to use business tactics to generate profit and use the profit to make a difference in the world.


    Finding Her Way in the Golden City | GOOD Cities Project | San Francisco



    The GOOD Cities Project is designed to explore how different cities or communities have shaped some of our favorite thought leaders, artists, and writers’ views on life. As a part of the project, GOOD has embarked on an adventurous journey with Caterina Fake, a co-founder of photo-sharing site Flickr, to learn how the city of San Francisco and its creative culture and rich history have helped her define her dream of becoming a tech entrepreneur.

    Let us know how the city of Richmond has influenced your life at @VolunteerRmd!



    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: October 2014

    So who here misses turkey dinner and Halloween costume fun? For those of you who are not ready for the holiday season, here's a belated Wide World of Volunteerism to bring back October. Story from blogger Ray Wang.

    Plasmodium knowlesi is a deadly malaria parasite which is spread from macaque monkeys to humans via mosquitos. Previously, cases of malaria in Southeast Asia were only found in adult men who worked on logging operations in the forest and got bitten by mosquitos that carried P. knowlesi. Now, cases of malaria are also showing up in children and whole families.

    To determine the cause for the spread of malaria, researchers are using a small camera-carrying drone to map out areas affected by P. knowlesi, collect information about the macaques that host the parasite, and monitor potential breeding grounds for these mosquitos. It is the hope that, with this data, researchers can find a solution to this issue.


    5 Ways Green Office Design Also Makes Workers Happier and More Productive


    Image source: Chriſtopher Chen


    Creative and sustainable office design helps businesses improve the well-being of the planet as well as that of their employees. For example, by designing a bike-friendly office and encouraging their employees to bike to work, businesses can boost their employees’ happiness, making employees less likely to get sick. That means an increase in overall efficiency -- all while reducing a business’s carbon footprint!


    Cured of Ebola, Nina Pham Anxious to See Family, Dog


    Nina Pham, a second nurse who became infected with Ebola while treating an Ebola patient, is now free of the virus after receiving several weeks of supportive care and Ebola-fighting antibodies. Her recovery is a sign of hope for those affected.






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  • Kathryn Tung at the Richmond Family Place

    The Richmond Family Place exists to help children reach their full potential - but the important work that they do supporting families would not be possible without the generous contributions of their volunteers. In this blog post, volunteer blogger Susan Young profiles longtime Family Place volunteer, Kathryn Tung.


    With our busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, volunteering can positively impact our community - it’s the glue that hold a community together. It allows individuals to share and connect with each other, thus strengthening our communities. It can also be a fulfilling experience for the volunteer.


    One of my favorite places for parents with young children is the Richmond Family Place. This is where you will meet Kathryn Tung, one of their many volunteers. For the past 6 years, Kathryn has been helping at the Saturday morning Dad and Child’s Breakfast.


    Kathryn has a background in early childhood education and loves interacting with children and parents. She found the Family Place during a site visit for her practicum. Ever since, she has contributed her time in engaging parents and their kids in active play, singing songs during circle time, and helping around the center where needed.


    She enjoys applying the skills she’s learned into her life and volunteer work. Being around children she notes is a fulfilling experience. Children and parents have different perspectives. Sometimes it takes a different approach to doing something to get your children’s attention or to accomplish a task. Kathryn listens to and shares advice with new parents. She really enjoys volunteering because it’s gratifying to helping others. She notes, “It’s rewarding to see children who often attend the Family Place acknowledge my presence and greet me with a hug”.


    Volunteering can also benefit the volunteer. Since volunteering, Kathryn joking says she she has gained more cooking, time management, and leadership skills working with other people. She strongly believes volunteering has positively affected her life in that she feels more humble and wise. Along with gaining great employable and life skills, she has also met a lot of great people. Kathryn’s advice for someone who has never volunteered before is to try it out. 



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  • 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. Neighbourhood Small Grants in Richmond is made possible by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, a collaboration between Volunteer Richmond Information Services and the Richmond Community Foundation. 

     

      


    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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