Louise Osmond knows that strong relationships are the foundation to working effectively with children and families.
At 24 years old, with a 3-year old toddler and a newborn baby, Louise Osmond became a single parent. With the support of many community agencies and programs she was able to complete her four year Child and Youth Care degree at the University of Victoria and follow her dreams of working with children, youth and families.
Today, in her role as the Central Okanagan Universal Screening Initiative (COUSI) Coordinator, she guides families through the use of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, a tool that helps to identify whether a child is developmentally on track. More than that, she provides reassurance, validation and resources for parents. “So often parents wonder if everything is okay; if what my baby or toddler or preschooler is doing is normal.” Louise sees the ASQ screening as an opportunity for parents to celebrate their child; the qualities, characteristics that make them unique. “It’s a way of filling your toolkit so you can be there for your child. It is a strength; a gift to your child.”
Success By 6 is a United Way initiative focused on making the Central Okanagan the best place possible to raise a child. Success by 6, along with the Central Okanagan Foundation, provided funding toward the COUSI Coordinator position at the Kelowna Child Care Society. The investment was part of a comprehensive strategy to help children succeed for life by focusing on the development of social and emotional skills.
"Ensuring that our community is a strong and healthy one in the future starts with our communities children," explains Shelley Gilmore, Executive Director of the United Way CSO. "Our United Way is committed to investing in children's programming that supports the family unit and fosters both individual and family success. Success By 6 is just one program that we are part of that is working to make an impact."
Because Louise was a young parent she can relate to the challenges people face. She recalls, “you do face a lot of judgement. I know what it was like to have eyes on me.”
Many families in our region don’t have an informal family network around them. They have moved here from other areas of the province or country and can feel isolated. Louise feels that programs and initiatives are working to try to fill the void in the support system.
“I want people to feel that I have seen them and heard them.” As she watches the families and babies she works with grow and develop she sees, “they are highly skilled and able to nurture. Parents are so capable. They take their role as a parent very seriously.”
Louise admits that sometimes developmental concerns arise. Yet, the sooner parents and care providers catch a delay, the sooner they can make a difference. The importance of the first six years should not be underestimated; it sets the foundation for all the health, growth, learning, and life satisfaction that follows. Providing early identification of potential differences is crucial.
United Way works with partner agencies like the Kelowna Child Care Society, investing in three focus areas: building strong communities, helping kids be all they can be, and moving people from poverty to possibility. To join the movement, visit www.unitedwaycso.com
This article was submitted by Amanda Turner, Success By 6 Coordinator for United Way in the Central Okanagan.
Asking for help is difficult for most people. It can be especially daunting if a senior has always been independent, and then suddenly needs more support because of an illness, injury or other sudden life change.
For many years, United Way has helped ensure that assistance is available to seniors and families who do reach out for support, by making an annual investment in the Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre as well as several other seniors organizations in the Okanagan Valley. Donations to the United Way campaign are critical to agencies like Seniors Outreach, who depend on core funding to keep their doors open.
Community volunteers are also essential, because the centre has only three paid employees responding to thousands of inquiries each year. Volunteer support allows the funding to be leveraged so that more seniors can be helped, which is a tremendous value to the overall well-being of the community. The greatest needs are around handy-person tasks, social transportation and friendly visiting.
Kathryn McLean, a social worker who has been supporting seniors through the centre since 2011, says, “For some people, it takes a lot for them to be able to pick up the phone and call for help. Sometimes they are perplexed about why they don’t qualify for particular services in the community. We try to match the volunteer to what the senior is wanting and needing. It feels good when we are able to say yes.”
McLean says a favourite part of her role is helping people understand their options. “When somebody goes away knowing what is available to them and feeling empowered to take the next step, I know I accomplished what I set out to do. I like to make things clear in a way that the person can understand. That’s rewarding.”
She says that a lot of people don’t really understand how hard life can be for seniors, especially if they are lacking social and family support, have limited financial resources, and are restricted by health issues and disabilities.
Mahat is a volunteer with Seniors Outreach who hosts the weekly Coffee Break get-togethers that are held at the Apple Valley building at 2055 Benvoulin (across from Orchard Park Mall). Seniors Outreach has their offices in the main floor of the seniors apartment building.
A semi-retired bus driver, Mahat finds hosting the social gatherings very rewarding, even baking treats to share with the group. Seniors Outreach is his first experience with volunteering, and he enjoys the weekly routine of making coffee, setting out everything the group needs, and helping people to feel welcome and comfortable. He says both men and women attend the meetings.
“I see challenges they are facing. Sometimes it’s loneliness. One fellow’s wife passed away and then his son also passed away, and he has no brothers or sisters," he says. “People come to the group and they talk about their own lives, what they did during the week, and sometimes they help each other with different things too.”
Mahat feels that Seniors Outreach does an excellent job of helping seniors through their outreach services, programs and volunteer services.
United Way works with partner agencies like Seniors Outreach Services Society, investing in three focus areas: building strong communities, helping kids be all they can be, and moving people from poverty to possibility. To join the movement, visit www.unitedwaycso.com
Submitted by Avril Paice, Director of Community Investment for United Way of the Central and South Okanagan Similkameen
It’s interesting when words or phrases become buzz words in our everyday language. One that you may have heard lately is the word ‘engagement'. You may have heard of it in terms of ‘volunteer engagement’ or ‘community engagement'. Let’s look at this interesting word and these two specific applications.
Overall, engagement describes a process in which meaningful participation, collaboration, and dialogue are involved. This definition does have broad application but it boils down to the emotional and functional commitment of individuals or groups of individuals to a cause that they believe in.
Community engagement deals with the practice of moving communities towards change; it allows communities to learn about and contribute and shape the decisions that affect their lives. Community engagement should therefore lead to an improved and organized community by providing a voice for all citizens including vulnerable members of our community. Central to the success of the concept of engagement is a common ideal or vision. The vision needs to be rooted in local values, grounded in community experience, and shaped by as many citizens as possible. Research suggests that when people have opportunities to contribute to the decisions that affect their lives, they are more likely to support these decisions over the long-term.
Volunteer engagement is a fundamental cornerstone of the voluntary sector. Volunteer engagement is a strategy that builds organizational capacity through employee and volunteer collaboration. Capacity is about abundance – having more resources to reach more people. For volunteers to be truly engaged, an organization needs to create opportunities for volunteers to meaningfully contribute. Volunteer engagement builds the capacity of the non-profit organization beyond what staff alone can accomplish. You would almost certainly ever hear a non-profit admit to having too many people involved in their cause because it’s the synergy of engagement of individuals that leads to increase in awareness and ultimately support.
So what’s common to both community engagement and volunteer engagement? In a word – collaboration. So whether you’re a volunteer, staff member or citizen - find your place, get involved, collaborate. When we work together amazing things can happen.
Organizations, by and large, strive for win-win outcomes. The United Way loaned and sponsored representative program goes even further. It is a triple win benefiting individuals, businesses and communities.
A Loaned Representative is temporarily loaned from a business to assist during United Way’s fall campaign season. A Sponsored Representative can be hired by United Way thanks to a directed financial contribution from a corporate or individual donor.
The first win is for the organization that loans or sponsors an employee. Businesses actively seek out leadership training for employees, and this role is packed with learning. An additional benefit is United Way’s ability to showcase these philanthropic partners as a visible force for positive community change.
The second win is for the loaned or sponsored employee. An emerging leader gains enriched skills while fostering a deeper commitment to their community. They return to work re-invigorated, bringing with them enhanced communications abilities, broader networks, and experience in time and project management as well as negotiation.
Angela Pomeroy, who served as a sponsored representative at United Way CSO in 2012, experienced first-hand the power of community working together for a common purpose. Her role was made possible by the generosity of Interior Savings and the Colin and Lois Pritchard Foundation, and she has continued working with United Way as our Development Associate. Those who support the program make a profound philanthropic impact in their community, because the gift is leveraged to achieve impact far beyond the cost of the initial investment.
“Change is something that is achievable for any person. I think of those individuals who come from the mindset of ‘what can I do? I’m just one person.’ I was asked that question quite often when I was doing presentations to organizations. People would say, ‘I can’t afford something huge that would make a real change.’ But you have to remember that every bit of change literally adds up.”
Thousands of community members will be positively affected by the work of one loaned or sponsored representative, so the third win is a big one for communities. When local workplaces are supported by these representatives to run successful and engaging internal fundraising campaigns, more people understand the needs in their community and how their decision to give, volunteer or act result in change.
Rhonda Ewan was a loaned representative from Interior Savings for the 2013 United Way CSO Campaign.
“It gave me a good feeling. I was giving back to my community, in a way that I learned more about what’s going on in my own backyard. I was born and raised here and am I raising my kids here, and I want them to grow up in a strong community and know what they can do to make a difference.”
To find out more about the Loaned and Sponsored Representative Program, and how United Way makes change happen in our communities, contact us at 250-860-2356 or visit www.unitedwaycso.com.
Read more Change Starts Here articles
- Putting donations to work Jun 1
- Volunteers are indispensable Apr 20
- Success through connection Mar 6
- Parent conference filling a need Feb 3
- United Way is about you Dec 3
- Facilitating community impact Nov 4
- Helping kids be all that they can be Oct 5
- New grants for charities Aug 6
- Unity House: healthy connections Jul 2
- Moving from poverty to possibility: Jim's story Jun 2
- Changes & the charitable sector Apr 28
- Giving back: Part 2 Jan 20
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