Campaign in the News 2021

Join the United Way Campaign kick-off livestream with opening video from Vivek Goel

Kick Off Lunch banner image.

A message from the United Way Campaign.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin on September 23, 2021.

Mark your calendars: On September 28, we’ll be kicking-off our annual United Way Campaign virtually, open for all to attend! Join our live-stream at lunch for the opportunity to:

  • See a video of our President, Vivek Goel, talking about why the United Way is important to him, and the connection between public health and your donations;
  • Be inspired by the CEO of United Way WRC, Joan Fisk, as she shares how donations are helping our community to thrive;
  • Get excited about all the amazing events and activities you can participate in and support this year; and
  • Learn about the important role you play in changing our community for the better.

Whether you're a long-time donor, volunteer, or just are looking for ways to make a positive impact in your community while having some fun, this is an event you won’t want to miss. Visit our event webpage to register and receive the livestream link.

United Way Charitable Spotlight: Kind Minds Family Wellness

By Jessica Manarang. This is the third in a three-part series of articles on the charities supported by the University's United Way Campaign.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin on September 14, 2021.

Kind Minds Family Wellness logo.The pandemic has affected us all, though some more severely than others. Ajirioghene Evi-Cobbinah, the executive director of Kind Minds Family Wellness (KMFW), explains: “we know from data and research that Black communities have been the most impacted with the pandemic by way of deaths”. Kind Minds Family Wellness is a Black-led, culturally inclined grassroots organization that launched amidst the pandemic and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, serving Black-identifying, racialized, and equity-seeking bodies in Waterloo Region.

Reflecting on one year of perseverance, progress, and promise

A collage of staff, volunteers, and clients of Kind Minds Family Wellness celebrating the organization's one-year anniversary.Just last August, KMFW was created by a group of black professionals working in local mainstream and euro-centric settings who recognized the gaps in social services for Black persons which have been emphasized during the pandemic. The tragedy of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent amplification of the BLM movement was their signal to actively address and attempt to close those gaps in our community. Initially, they targeted Black-identifying youth; however, Evi-Cobbinah explains they quickly realized that “if we’re supporting the youth, we need to support the people also supporting the youth”. Thus, they expanded to serve all members of a family and embodied their full name as Kind Minds Family Wellness.

Within one year, KMFW has offered and supported a variety of initiatives and programs. Particularly important is their Afro-centric counselling, because people “feel confident and more connected if they are with an organization, community, or professionals that actually do represent them… culturally or even racially,” explains accounting and operations personnel, Tafadzwa Takaendesa.  Similarly, its Klib Liv (Means ‘Book Club’ in Haitian Creole) Book Club celebrates Black excellence while promoting literacy. Other services include employment support, advocacy, community outreach, mentoring programs, and youth groups. A key component of each is upholding accountability through regular research. As Takaendesa states, “Kind Minds Family Wellness is committed to providing equitable and culturally sensitive programs within the context of an evidenced-based practice”.

Staff, volunteers, and participants posing outside together for a photo during one of their summer community events.KMFW has worked with other organizations, such as Carizon, to bring Black-identifying and newcomer seniors together. In collaboration with the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, KMFW provided cultural cooking classes. Essentially, KMFW aims to connect their clientele with other social service agencies in a way that understands and honours their cultural or racial backgrounds. “It’s been a long-time coming, to create a hub for Black persons and Black residents,” Evi-Cobbinah explains. “We know that there are other organizations that are doing amazing stuff – whether they are grassroots, Black-led, or mainstream – but we could be that bridge [for Black-identifying residents]”.

The United Way has been a crucial supporter of these achievements, not only by providing funding, but also a platform to meet and hear about other organizations in the community that are serving different needs. As well, KMFW has benefited from the exposure, information, and resources that the United Way has shared. “We’re so proud that as a young organization, we’ve actually felt welcome,” Evi-Cobbinah says. “Shout-out to United Way, they came through”.

Moving forward with passion, purpose, and propositions

Although Kind Minds Family Wellness has developed impressively quick, there is still so much it needs to address and overcome. Accessibility is a consistent point of difficulty without an interpreter to help communicate with clients whose first language is not English. Using technology to access Kind Minds Family Wellness’ virtual services has also proved a challenge for some senior clients or clients without access to internet. Indeed, the pandemic has made it hard for KMFW to reach many of its clients. Caretakers struggle to balance both their own needs with their children’s, while victims of domestic violence are stuck at home with their perpetrator. Therefore, these clients have limited access to the services KMFW offers that could support them.

A group of people smiling in attendance of one of Kind Minds' events, an outdoor community picnic.As social isolation restrictions are lifted, KMFW faces the challenge of transitioning to in-person service and strategizing new operations. Building new partnerships and collaborations with other organizations and institutions is a priority to reach as many people as possible, especially students. Zino Ojogbo is a Board Member and Treasurer at KMFW, but also a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. “Speaking from both my experience with Kind Minds Family Wellness as well as a student, it would be nice if the University of Waterloo could partner with an organization like Kind Minds Family Wellness that provides cultural-inclined counselling for racialized students,” she shares. “Culture is an important factor to consider in counselling”. Other opportunities include student placements with KMFW, sponsorships, and simply amplifying their message and sharing their presence.

“We’re new, we’re growing, so our needs are huge,” Evi-Cobbinah admits. As is, Kind Minds Family Wellness is significantly reliant on passionate volunteers and contractors, and demand for their services is only increasing. More funding is required to provide the organization stability through hired staff and further development through increased resources. Donating to the United Way during this year’s campaign can help Kind Minds Family Wellness and other important agencies across the Waterloo region obtain the funding they need to support the people in our community who need them.

To learn more about Kind Minds Family Wellness, visit their website: https://kindmindsfamilywellness.org/. Stay tuned for content about our campus’ United Way Campaign in October to support Kind Minds and other important organizations in our community by donating.

United Way Charitable Spotlight: Social Development Centre Waterloo Region

Social Development Centre Waterloo Region logo.

By Jessica Manarang. This is the second in a three-part series on the charities the United Way supports.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin on September 7, 2021.

The Social Development Centre Waterloo Region (SDC) is not your usual non-profit organization. With a focus on community development and policy advocacy, it supports and empowers groups, collectives, and communities to take action on the issues they personally face. In effect, the progress advocated for and supported through the SDC is developed by the very people impacted by it the most. “No other organization has this specific mandate working to improve services or policies,” explains Aleksandra Petrovic, SDC’s Executive Director. “We’re talking systems; helping transform systems from the ground up”.

Taking a bottom-up approach to community engagement

Many institutions and direct service providers function based on the expertise and knowledge of professionals who operate within the realm of their reality; however, by way of their education and access to resources, their reality is often more privileged than that of the people they serve. In contrast, SDC conducts community-based research and observes trends to identify the gaps in services and helps advocate for improvements. “The knowledge that we need to resolve current crises cannot come from top-down places and systems,” explains Petrovic. “It can only be transformed by the knowledge and experience of the people living the reality of housing precarity, income insecurity, and food insecurity”.

Community members discussing and collaborating in SDC’s Civic Hub.In fact, SDC has traditionally been an incubator for other organizations and resident groups, such as Disabilities and Human Rights, Renters Educating and Networking Together, Waterloo Community Legal Services, and Meals on Wheels. Some of the supports SDC offers through their Civic Hub Waterloo Region program include but are not limited to: fiscal sponsorship; acquiring resources and making connections; and offering a physical space for groups to meet and collaborate. Petrovic affirms, “we learn from them, and they teach us how to do our work; it’s a symbiotic relationship”.

Eviction prevention and peace for all Canada

Eviction Prevention is one of the more recent programs that SDC supports. Two peer support staff are dedicated to advocating for and empowering residents as they deal with evictions in the Cambridge and KW areas. Perhaps the most crucial and difficult part of this service is building trust with the residents. Michelle Knight, the program’s Cambridge Outreach Worker, explains that “[s]ometimes, people just need to… validate their experience and the fact that they matter. SDC does that”.

SDC also supports Peace For All Canada (PFAC), a conflict transformation initiative that creates opportunities for refugees, immigrants, newcomers, and current residents to help each other through programs that focus on gender-violence, mental health, tutoring, and more. “I have over 20 years of community work experience,” Ayiko Solomon, one of PFAC’s most dedicated volunteers, explains. “One of the leading traumas I have in Canada is not being able to put that experience and passion into work… but with the support of the United Way through the Social Development Centre, I am able to do what I do best”.

United Way empowers SDC to empower others

The relationship between SDC and the United Way is rooted in the shared passion for translating diverse individual experiences into something that benefits everyone. When the United Way receives donations from people like us here at the University of Waterloo, those funds are distributed to the local organizations that need it the most, like the SDC. Due to the United Way offering fiscal sponsorships, SDC is also able to direct some of those funds to the small and niche non-profit organizations or programs that are otherwise unable to apply for funding, like Eviction Prevention and Peace For All Canada.

Knight explains how she sees the relationship between United Way and the SDC’s Eviction Prevention program: “United Way has created a place and a space and stacked it with people who genuinely care about the work that they’re doing... It has allowed me to learn a lot through this, and to grow as a human… bigger, better, stronger, wiser. Thank you, United Way.”

To learn more about SDC, visit their website at: http://www.waterlooregion.org/. Stay tuned for content about our campus’ United Way Campaign in October to support SDC and other important organizations in our community by making a donation.

United Way Charity Spotlight - Sexual Assault Support Centre

By Jessica Manarang. This is the first article in a three-part series on the charities that the United Way supports.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin on August 31, 2021.

Sexual Assault Support Centre logoFollowing the second wave of feminism in the 1960 and 1970s, sexual assault centres sprung up across Canada. After the Waterloo Rape Distress Centre closed its doors due to a lack of funding in 1975, our region became one of largest communities in Ontario without sexual violence services. In response, a group of local women started a 24-hour support line by passing around a pager to ensure that survivors of sexual violence at least had someone to talk to. In 1989, after the Montreal Massacre, these women received a $30,000 donation from Mutual Life (now Sun Life) which enabled them to hire staff and become the charitable organization known today as the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC).

Providing wrap-around support

Sexual Assault Support Centre staff with the Pride flag.

SASC has undergone drastic development and expansion over the years to offer the necessary programs to address the complex issues that survivors of sexual violence and gender-based violence may face. These include both individual and facilitated group counselling; a 24-hour support line and online chat; an advocacy program that supports survivors in court, at the police station, at the hospital, and with landlords; and even an anti-human trafficking program that serves survivors as young as 12 years old.

One of SASC’s indirect services include engaging men and boys as allies through one of the strongest public education programs in the country. To understand the systemic roots of sexual and gender-based violence, SASC in conjunction with key community partners reviews all sexual assault cases that didn’t end up in charges through an agreement with the Waterloo Regional Police. Essentially, SASC exists to support survivors and then to advocate for systemic change that either prevents sexual violence or improves how our system responds to sexual survivors.

Perhaps the most distinct and important part of SASC’s services is that they are not time limited. “We work with folks where they’re at and try to support them with whatever they need” Sara Casselman, SASC’s executive director, explains. “Sometimes you have someone come for 8-12 sessions, and sometimes someone may be with us getting supports in various capacities for a couple of years”.

The MeToo movement and the pandemic has increased demand

Two images of SASC workers and leaders in purple shirts and in formal wear at a masquerade event.

The MeToo movement shifted and amplified the dialogue around sexual abuse and harassment. Survivors began reaching out for support like no other time in history; yet funding for sexual assault centres has remained relatively stagnant. Without sufficient resources, SASC struggles to meet demand.

The pandemic has only exacerbated that demand, and in all program areas. The counsellor-facilitated workshops have grown over 600 per cent and around 130 people are on the waiting list for individual counselling. Demand for SASC’s family court support program has also increased by 51 per cent.

Social isolation has been particularly harmful for victims and survivors of sexual violence, as it has made distancing from abusers and reaching out for support much harder. Although SASC has been able to adapt most of their services to a virtual setting, it is not always ideal. “It’s challenging if someone is triggered, and we can’t be there to support them.” Casselman said.

Students are prioritized because they are disproportionally affected by sexual violence

Casselman says that “at any given point, about half of the survivors we’re serving and about half of those on our waiting list are aged 25 and younger”. Moreover, women between 16-24 are four-five times more likely to experience sexual violence than any other demographic. That’s why SASC has an agreement with the post-secondary institutions in the Waterloo region to prioritize students who reach out for support and to provide public education on campuses, including the University of Waterloo. Spreading the word about sexual violence and the supports that exist is so important; as Casselman says, “it’s the kind of service you never think you’ll need or will impact your life, until it does”.

Donations to United Way can help eliminate the waiting list

Women sit in front of a chalkboard that says "together we can do so much."

There are many ways to support SASC and its work – such as volunteering with its 24-hour support line, sharing its social media content, and joining its team of staff. However, the most urgent goal is to eliminate its growing waiting list. “We need the resources to meet the demand that we’re seeing,” explains Casselman, “which is why it is so important that we have agencies like United Way that support our work”.

To learn more about SASC, visit their website at https://www.sascwr.org/. Stay tuned for content about our campus’s United Way Campaign in October to support SASC and other important organizations in our community by making a donation.

United Way campaign releases 2020 annual report

The University's six Deans dressed as Star Trek characters.

A message from the University of Waterloo United Way Campaign.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin on August 25, 2021.

Our campaign in 2020

What does “go red” look like during a pandemic? Like the rest of campus, we took a virtual approach in order to keep our community safe. This meant a little more creativity and ingenuity – but like any other United Way Campaign, we were blown away by the generosity of the University of Waterloo and their ability to come together in a crisis. COVID-19 definitely added challenges, but we rose to the occasion.  

The best and brightest moments

As we gear up for the 2021 United Way Campaign, we’d like to share our appreciation for the hard work, support, and enthusiasm from our campus community – committee members, volunteers, and donors – during our 2020 campaign. Whether you attended a virtual event, executed a fundraising activity within your department, or made a donation, every little bit helps. Your support helped to raise over $230,000 for the 2020 campaign. Read the full report online.

Our impact

  • Over 40 individual donors gave to United Way (employees, retirees and students).
  • 103 new donors supported the campaign – that’s just over 22 per cent of our 460 total donors.
  • Our Ambassadors executed 15 events, contributing over $12,000 to our campaign.

Event highlights

  • University of Waterloo Deans paraded to Senate in Star Trek costumes;
  • The first ever virtual cooking shows had 'souper' turnouts – members of our campus community enjoyed their butternut squash soup and risotto; and
  • Incredible participation of our volunteers – including the Library, Engineering, Health, and more.

Impact of your investment

Our campaign efforts contributed to:

  • Funding programs to help those in need of counselling and mental health services.
  • Supporting programs helping youth enhance their social and educational skills.
  • Funding programs connecting local immigrants to their community.
  • Supporting programs that help those living in poverty in our community.

2021 campaign is coming soon

As we look ahead to our 2021 campaign on October 1st, we don’t want to forget our “every little bit counts” sentiment. By coming together as a campus community, we can help those who need it most.

United Way Campaign issues call for volunteers

The University of Waterloo sign wrapped in red for the United Way campaign.

A message from the University of Waterloo United Way Campaign Committee.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin on August 17, 2021.

Are you looking for a new and fun way to support your community? How about connecting and networking with amazing colleagues from across campus? Want to exercise your skills in creativity and planning? Or maybe you’re looking for a great way to enhance and amplify your performance evaluation?

These benefits, and more, await you as a volunteer with the United Way Ambassador Team. Be a part of an elite group of individuals from across campus who not only provide a great sense of pride and purpose within their own departments, but also work to strengthen our broader campus and Waterloo communities.

And let’s be honest, the success of our United Way Campaign wouldn’t be where it is today without these incredible and dedicated volunteers.

We’ll be launching our United Way Campaign on October 1 and we’re hoping to have as many volunteers for each department as possible. Are you the one to help us spread the message widely about campaign events and how to donate?

Join our team as an ambassador by heading to our website to learn more and complete the volunteer form. Not sure if your department is represented? You can find a list of current Ambassadors online.

We’re looking forward to this year’s team and another fun and exciting United Way Campaign for 2021.

Thank you.

Volunteer with the University's United Way Campaign

United Way Core Comittee

A message from the United Way Campaign.

Originaly published in the Daily Bulletin June 8, 2021

Looking for an opportunity to make a difference in your community, enhance your skills, or have something to brag about on your performance evaluation? And maybe have a bit of fun while working with a small team of amazing people to help make your community a stronger, more resilient, and happier place? There’s no better way to do this than through volunteering for the United Way Campaigna cause that reaches those who need it and fosters autonomy and dignity.

For those who don’t know, our university hosts a fund-raising campaign every October for the United Way Waterloo Region Communities. The money raised is distributed to various charities across the KW area – such as the Literacy Group, Sexual Assault Support Centre, KW Access-Ability, Kitchener-Waterloo Counselling Services, and dozens more.

Planning and administering the campaign is the effort of several dedicated Core Committee members who work throughout the year to ensure our workplace campaign connects with our strong campus community to raise donations.

We’re looking for resourceful and enthusiastic people, just like you, to help us make this year’s campaign a massive success, especially since this pandemic has impacted many people in our community with undue hardships.

Learn how you can make a difference in your community while building upon key skills in areas like leadership, communications, event planning, and administration. Volunteer today.