Holiday Message from Tim Veresh
As the year comes to an end, I want to take a moment to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and all the best for 2024. And, in keeping with tradition (and taking inspiration from the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Twelve Days of Giving), here are twelve of my proudest moments of 2023.
12. Celebrating Kevin Taylor
I was thrilled to hear that Kevin Taylor, KidStart Volunteer Coordinator, was chosen to be the recipient of the Carol Matusicky Distinguished Service to Families Award! This award is dedicated to a family service professional who has done an outstanding job improving the lives of families in British Columbia. Since Kevin has facilitated life-changing connections between hundreds of mentors and mentees over the last 35+ years, I know he was so deserving of this award! I thank Kevin for his many years of service and wish him well on his recent retirement.
11. Recognizing Inclusivity and Accessibility
I was equally proud to hear that, following Kevin’s award, another member of staff was honoured! Michelle Cherak, Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Development, received a Certificate of Appreciation acknowledging all the work she does in ensuring that Maple Ridge is an accessible and inclusive community for all. In particular, it was granted for her work helping to provide local high school students in need with formal attire for their graduation night. This honour was granted by the Maple Ridge Municipal Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Inclusion (MACAI). Well done, Michelle!
10. Opening Two Specialized Youth Homes
We were successful in our proposals to run two new specialized youth homes – one in Burnaby and one in North Fraser. These homes provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for children and youth whose complex needs can’t be met through the level of supervision and intervention provided in less intensive settings. Following these contract awards we hired two new managers, and more than 20 youth care workers joined our team. Since September we have been providing round the clock care to the two young people now living in them.
9. Holding Our First Post-Covid All-Staff
After three long years, we held our first post-COVID all-staff meeting in May. The aim of the day was to give us all the chance to reconnect with one another, to get know programs/teams outside of our own, and to reflect on the skills required for us all to better collaborate with one another. We did this by creating a World Café theme where staff got to showcase their programs by putting their skills and creative talents to work. The day was very engaging and offered a chance for us all to get to know one another a little better.
8. Meeting With the United Nations
Alongside Covenant House Vancouver and Salvation Army’s Illuminate, we organized and facilitated a day for the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Contemporary Forms of Global Slavery to meet with 17 anti-human trafficking organizations during his recent visit to Canada. Those present shared their experiences of supporting individuals who are being exploited, the barriers that prevent them from exiting, and what more the various levels of Government can do to support this work. We advocated for free, school-based preventative education on sexual exploitation to be available to all school-aged children across Canada and for ongoing, sustainable funding to be made available to carry out this important task. We also called for a sustained focus on raising the public’s awareness of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. It’s an issue that thrives in the dark. We believe that the more people know about it, and recognize that it can happen to anyone, the greater chance we have of preventing it.
7. Venturing onto the Water With Our Canoe, Spirit of the North
6. Hosting the Honourable Judge Marion Buller
In October, we hosted the Honourable Judge Marion Buller, who was the Chief Commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She provided an overview of the key findings, the research process, and the recommendations of the National Inquiry. Staff were invited to ask questions following her presentation. She ended the conversation on a positive note by sharing two stories that testify to the power individuals can have in creating change in their community. We are thankful to Judge Buller for sharing her vast knowledge and experience with us so generously and honestly. This was a valuable opportunity to learn from a person who is a leader and an inspiration for many in, and outside, the Indigenous community.
5. Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village
Once again, we brought in Kathi Camilleri to facilitate Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village, workshop for staff. The experiential workshop is designed to illustrate, in a deep and emotional way, the depth and intergenerational effects of colonization. Kathi created this workshop for organizations across Canada to increase cultural competency and as such, we have now included it as part of our Reconciliation work here at PLEA.
4. Gifting Mural to Kwikwetlem First Nation
In our continued commitment to be an ally in reconciliation, PLEA Knowledge Keeper, Charles Lafferty, and I visited the Kwikwetlem First Nation to gift one of the murals commissioned by our friend, Indigenous Artist, Rosalie Dipcsu-Williams, for our Port Coquitlam location. This was accompanied by a letter affirming PLEA’s role as the stewards of the artwork and confirming PLEA would gift the rest of the artwork to the Nation if ever it no longer has use for it.
3. Building a Sweat Lodge
Our Waypoint program built a sweat lodge that is available for staff and all programs to use. We worked alongside Knowledge Keeper, Charles Lafferty, to ensure all the necessary protocols are in place before holding a ceremony. This includes arranging an Elder to host and provide cultural teachings to the staff and participants who use it.
2. Observing the Winter Season with Participants
In February, 37 program participants, along with staff, celebrated the winter season at the Híwus Feasthouse on Grouse Mountain. The theme for the day was “Gathering in Wellness: Wholistic connections to nurture spirit, culture and community.” They rode the gondola and snowshoed to Híwus Feasthouse, where Squamish Cultural Ambassador, William Jr. Nahanee, greeted them and led with a prayer before sharing a vivid story about the “Seagull”. It was a story of sharing, generosity, and caring for others and the environment. We are grateful to the First Nations Health Authority for sponsoring this special day to encourage First Nations in BC to celebrate the winter season.
1. Winning $105,000 for Children of the Street