Tag Archives: Not for Profit

Standing Up & Speaking Out-Why it Still Matters

Lori Kleinsmith is a YWCA Niagara Region Board Member and Chair of the Advocacy Committee.  As the month of July centers around leadership and community advocacy,  we asked Lori for some insight on why being an advocate for social issues is important.  Not only does her active role in the YW community make her a leader in our eyes, but Lori’s passion for health, human rights, poverty reduction, and social services inspires us!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lori.

 Advocacy can be speaking up for yourself on a personal issue or speaking out on a public policy issue that needs to be changed.

advocacy picture

Advocacy is about achieving justice and equity by challenging oppressive systems, policies, and laws that negatively affect a particular group or population.  Advocacy work can be complex, time consuming and tedious. It can often feel like little, if any, progress is being made. However, if we avoid doing advocacy work and stay silent, decision makers can say there is no problem or issue and the problem remains unaddressed.

 

One area in significant need of advocacy support in Niagara is housing and homelessness. The region of Niagara is inequitably funded for homelessness services, receiving less than half of what municipalities and regions of similar population size IMG_0972receive. This chronic underfunding has left local agencies scrambling for resource dollars, creating another obstacle for vulnerable people as critical programs and services are reduced or eliminated.  Niagara Region staff have outlined the issue in a their Ten Year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan. The report contains a wealth of data and information outlining housing service needs in Niagara.

Not-for-profit charities have often been among the strongest of voices on advocacy issues, ranging from poverty issues to the environment. Unfortunately, the government has placed a chill on charities participating in advocacy work as arduous audits of their political activity are taking place.  As charities shy away from advocacy work, now more than ever before, we need new advocates from all walks of life to step forward and take on this important work. This could be as simple as writing a letter to the editor highlighting an issue of concern such as housing and homelessness. Other ways of getting involved in advocacy include signing a petition (or starting your own!), contacting your local politicians to raise awareness on an issue, or joining a coalition of like-minded people to work collectively on issues, such as the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network or No Fixed Address. 

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
William Faulkner

Images courtesy of Google Images and YWCA Niagara Region.

Family Lessons Found at No Fixed Address

Lorraine Snihur is the Charity Support Manager of Trade Bank Canada, the largest            multi-directional barter exchange company in the country, helping not-for-profit organizations cut costs effectively.  She is also one of the many dedicated supporters and participants in the YW No Fixed Address event, sitting as the Chair of the Activities & Entertainment committee since 2013. 

1186013_426460124135907_873553474_n

Born and raised in Vineland, Lorraine says that helping not-for-profits is not only part of her job, but also a great passion of hers.  She believes that we are all put on this earth for a purpose and reminds her two children about the importance of making a difference in the world around them.  Participating in No Fixed Address is one of the ways that the Snihur family has shown their commitment to making a difference in the community.

I had the opportunity to chat with Lorraine about her family’s ongoing support and participation in No Fixed Address.

 

YW: What first caught your attention about No Fixed Address in 2013?

LS: This was an event that stood out from the others, although all fundraisers have their draw, NFA seemed to me to be more of an experience, a commitment and a way that we can help make a difference in our community.

YW: Why did you choose to register as a team with your family, rather than as an individual?

LS: Poverty doesn’t only affect adults…my children have seen signs of poverty at their school when a student doesn’t have a lunch or can’t find the money to participate in a class trip.  They understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are and that we all have to work together to make a difference.  If we just turn our heads and look the other way exactly what are we teaching our children?  Poverty is not a choice, it is a massive road block for so many people and families in our community and as part of our community they deserve our respect and our help.

YW: What was your first family experience like at No Fixed Address?  What was it like trying to fit yourself and your children into one car for the night?

LS: The activities held throughout the day really shed some light on what life would be like if we didn’t have the opportunities that we have.  It really opened all of our eyes to the “What if’s”.  Sure, we were able to get out of our vehicle when we wanted, and sure we had food and activities to keep us entertained but this event was different.  NFA2013 065 Part of it was fun for the kids as they were able to sleep in the truck however it wasn’t long before they realized how uncomfortable it really was and how horrible it would be if this was all we had to call our home.  It provided our family the opportunity to openly talk about what life would be like – crammed in in a vehicle with none of the things that we take for granted each and every day.

YW: What are some of the things that you and your children have learned from No Fixed Address?

LS: We have learned that poverty isn’t a word only used to describe the situation in third world countries….it is in our backyard.  We have learned that poverty doesn’t mean that the people affected by it are bums with no jobs and no drive to make a better life…it can happen to anyone at any time…it can be a result of job loss, sickness etc.

YW: How has No Fixed Address changed yours and your family’s perspective on homelessness?

IMG_1005LS: When we see a homeless person now, we are not quick to judge as we have no idea what path their life has taken then to lead them to homelessness.  We have also realized that just because someone seems fine on the outside doesn’t mean that they are not one pay cheque away from losing their home or have to choose between feeding their family and paying for heat.  It has made us become more aware, more grateful and more responsible for what we do have.  It has made us think harder and longer about our time here and how we can make a difference – this was definitely an experience to remember and one that we are grateful for.

 

Do you and your family want to be a part of No Fixed Address this summer?  Register here and begin your journey of creating change in the community.