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Employ To Empower For The DTES

Christina, Vancouver

 

Tell us a little about yourself

"My life mantra is ""Be curious, not judgemental"". At my core, my values are: Compassion, empathy, individualism, curiosity, creativity and play. I translate these values into my personal (who I am) and professional life (what I do).

From a professional standpoint, I left my corporate job in 2017 to jumpstart Employ to Empower, a registered charity that provides access development and entrepreneurial resources to residents in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Using a “hand-up, not hand out” approach, I developed programs that offer affordable micro-loans and business mentorship to people facing work and social barriers. Employ to Empower advocates to bring about positive change for residents in the Downtown Eastside to create a community free of stigma, where residents are seen, heard and validated.

As for my hobbies, I am an international pinecone collector. Why? Well, when I look at it, I remind myself that everything will be just pine. That's not a typo. Also, I can make a mean home fort. Although, my fort came crashing down during a zoom call and the person on the other line thought I got robbed haha!

This pandemic is without a doubt a giant challenge for all of us. However, something that always helps me get through this tough time is a reminder that us as humans are also the most adaptable and resourceful species on the planet. We will get through this together, and when we do, we will be stronger as a community."

Tell us about your #MakeWaves project
"Imagine not having anyone - not even one single person to connect with during COVID-19. We are learning that residents in the Downtown Eastside community are currently facing challenges around mental health, loneliness and many have no friends who can check in on their well-being during this COVID-19 pandemic. After learning this, Employ to Empower is launching the COVID-19 #StaySociallyConnected Pilot program, which provides 1:1 phone call support to socially isolated residents in the Downtown Eastside community.

For this pilot program, we will mobilize current entrepreneurs in the Employ to Empower program. They will offer 1:1 phone call support by reaching out to other socially isolated residents in the Downtown Eastside community. We know that the entrepreneurs in our program have fought through their past experiences with poverty and homelessness and are enthusiastic about giving back to their community by making these phone calls. (NOTE: Many also have social service work experience in their past.) We also have a strong relationship with the entrepreneurs as they have been a part of our program for the past year.

The phone caller's role would include offering a friendly ear to listen to the current struggles of socially isolated residents and updating such residents about the local COVID-19 resources (including food, shelter, showers and delivery services). We anticipate that the phone calls will be up to 30 minutes in length. Each program entrepreneur will receive a volunteer honorarium for every 40 mins of phone calls that they make; they will also continue to get coaching on how to run their own businesses by professional Employ to Empower mentors.

Our key goal with this pilot program is to benefit ETE program entrepreneurs and the broader Downtown Eastside community through social connection. Entrepreneurs in our program will have the opportunity to: 1) Experience a hands-on, business crash course alongside professional ETE mentors, 2) Develop leadership skills, 3) Give back to the community in a meaningful way and 4) Earn an honorarium for their time and efforts to make the phone calls. As for the broader Downtown Eastside community, many socially isolated residents will gain a connection to a buddy with a goal to support their well-being and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Our approach is for peers, who have higher relatability and empathy, to support their own peers in the Downtown Eastside community, thus causing a ripple effect. It’s more efficient for existing members to reach their fellow peers rather than non-profits, who don’t have that trusting relationship established already.

In addition, we have provided a thorough virtual training program that will walk them through real life scenarios to ensure that they are properly trained."

Who inspired you?

Residents facing high work and social barriers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - this can range from people experiencing mental health challenges/homelessness.

After practicing attentive listening to the Downtown Eastside community, we're learning that residents are experiencing loneliness, and have little to no friends to check in on their well-being. Sadly, I witnessed this experience when I met a 91 year old grandma who has asthma and was too afraid to leave her home. She has no family (they all died recently including her daughter) or any access to the internet. On top of that, she had only one friend named Valerie to call for help, who happened to be in our Employ to Empower program.

Due to having limited funds, Valerie called me to ask if I could drop off groceries for her and when I dropped off her groceries, she said thank you behind the door and expressed how she wished she could have a friend to talk to. This inspired me to jumpstart the #StaySociallyConnected program.

With your support, you can help us keep the Downtown Eastside socially connected. Moreover, you would be empowering existing entrepreneurs in Employ to Empower's program who have battled through poverty and homelessness to help their own neighbours, thus maximizing the impact and creating a ripple effect.

We're currently asking for funds to provide an honorarium to phone callers as an appreciation of their time.


Your message to the community

My charity Employ to Empower is launching the COVID-19 #StaySociallyConnected Pilot program, which provides 1:1 phone call support to socially isolated residents in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) community.

People who will make the phone calls are residents in the DTES and have fought through their past experiences with poverty and homelessness and are enthusiastic about giving back to their community by making these phone calls. (NOTE: Many also have social service work experience!)

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