United Way Campaign

Our 2022 - 2027 District Strategic Plan values of equity, connection and relationships, well-being and sustainability are fully embraced within this year’s United Way campaign. We know that as members of this thriving Thompson-Nicola-Cariboo region, we depend on each other and our community partners.

In 2023, United Way BC Thompson Nicola Cariboo over $5M into our region and over $1.2M into specifically to support nearly 80,000 individuals in this region, including programs beneficial to our students. Here are some examples of United Way programs:

United Way's Schools Out program: free or low barrier after-school care for vulnerable kids ages 5-12 between the critical hours of 3 pm - 6 pm.  This program focuses on supporting kids with homework help, life skills, basic needs (food and nutrition), and social and emotional support. This program is located in Kamloops and Ashcroft.

Youth Future's Education Fund (YFEF): Youth Future's Education Fund (YFEF) - Supports kids aging out of government care at the age of 19 to go to university on a government-funded tuition waiver.  This fund provides students with low-barrier access to funds to support living expenses, like food, books, damage deposits, bills, transportation, and technology.  It allows former youth in care to focus on their studies and not survival. This program is for any student coming out of government care across British Columbia. In our region: TRU in Kamloops/Williams Lake and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in Merritt. 

Regional Community Food Hub: United Way coordinates efforts between local nonprofits including organizations serving marginalized and underserved groups, school districts, faith-based organizations and food suppliers, food recovery groups, who deliver rescued food to local hubs, to ensure all British Columbians have access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food. Programming includes food hampers and meal distribution, community gardens, food literacy and skill building, as well as funding for staff and infrastructure development. Also looking towards filling identified service gaps like providing childcare for those interested in attending food literacy workshops and promoting First Nations hunting and fishing knowledge to increase Indigenous food sources. These programs are located in Williams Lake, Clearwater/Barriere and Kanaka Bar.

Food For All Program: Supporting organizations in Kamloops that provide vital food programming in Kamloops. We know access to healthy, affordable, nutritious food is becoming more troublesome and costly for people. The importance of food access goes far beyond hunger, nutritious options, and affordability. It affects immunity, energy levels, mental health, and the ability to maintain personal relationships and work. Food is also deeply connected with family, community, and social interactions. Adults struggling with food insecurity are at greater risk for physical and mental health problems and in children, food insecurity at an early age is associated with childhood mental health problems. This funding will be distributed to 12 agencies in Kamloops.

The goal of the Food for All program is to increase access to community-based food programs that provide free or low-cost, healthy nutritious food, a sense of community, food-related knowledge, and valued connections. This may include:

  • Food Access Programming – Including learning about and sharing cooking, growing and preserving skills, affordable or free food sources as well as other related food knowledge and basic nutrition for individuals and families.
  • Increased Engagement – Inclusive and strengths-based programming that supports community connectedness and inclusion. Collaboration with other local agencies, in an effort to enhance access, will be considered favourably.
  • Access to Cultural Appropriate Foods - Recognition of the rich variety of cultural foods, celebrations, and gatherings, including increased understanding of Indigenous food systems and multicultural meals and ingredients.
  • The Right to Food and Body Sovereignty. - alignment with a rights-based approach, whereby access to food is a human rights and healthy nutrition exists when all people have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences.

Child and Youth (and Caregiver) Mental Wellbeing: United Way’s Child and Youth Mental Health grants are aimed specifically towards programs and projects (existing or new) that promote adaptability, resiliency, communication skills, emotional regulation, problem-solving, cultural diversity, intergenerational teachings, cultural expressions, identity, a sense of belonging, life skills and prosocial behaviour. This funding is intended to nurture resiliency, increase access to resources, and support children, youth, and their caregivers to adapt and find success in our new and uncertain environment. This program is located at Clearwater. Our agency partners will use this funding to support kids and youth in the following ways:

  • Increased Engagement – Inclusive and strengths-based programming that fosters social connectedness and positive relationship building.
  • Knowledge Sharing and Increased Life skills – Promoting cultural diversity and expressions, as well as intergenerational ways of health and well-being among children and youth.
  • Empowering Youth (ages 13 – 29) - Providing opportunities for youth to learn skills and gain experience that enhances their capacity to make healthy life choices and create positive impact in their community.
  • Supporting Children (ages 0 – 12) - Providing opportunities for children to learn and gain experience that enhances their capacity to make healthy life choices and reach their emotional and developmental milestones.
  • Access to training and resources for Caregivers - Defined as someone with a family or a cultural connection to or a strong relationship with a child in need, who cares for that child full‐time, on either a temporary or a permanent basis.

Hi Neighbour program: Supporting communities affected by the pandemic, wildfires, and floods, helping rebuild the socio-infrastructure that has been lost over the past few years. With the support of our Community Builder, this initiative allows any community champion to apply for a Local Love fund of up to $1,000, to bring community members together. Some examples of this are Community BBQs, Beading classes for youth – taught by Elders, creating Little Libraries in neighbourhoods, and building/adding onto community gardens. This initiative is in Merritt, Lytton, and the 15 indigenous communities in between within the Fraser Valley and Nicola Valley.

Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism Society: Integrated Physical Program for school-age children.

A Way Home Kamloops Society: 16 – 24 years, The Life Skills program at A Way Home Kamloops connects youth to the skills they will need to one day move into independent housing.

BGC Kamloops (Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops): Provide low (children's) to no-cost (youth) programs to ensure those who need our services most can access them easily.

Clearwater Secondary School: Breakfast program, staffed by student volunteers, parent volunteers, and school staff, providing simple low-cost food; after-school programming open to students, responsive to student requests, we ran programs that included physical activity, fine arts, and a games club; Everyone can Play, this fund specifically targeted removing financial barriers for students in poverty; and Beyond the Hurt, a Red Cross anti-bullying program.

People in Motion: Memories In Motion supports people living with physical disabilities (including children and youth) to take to last-minute doctor appointments, Kelowna Cancer Clinic, social events, and by donation only.

Kamloops-Cariboo Regional Immigrants Society: Mentoring, Empowerment, and Tutoring (MET) for Newcomer Children and Youth, with the objectives to facilitate a higher level of Social-Emotional well-being and increase academic achievements among newcomer students, in collaboration with teachers across School District 73 to support newcomer students as they transition into a new community.

The Tree: The drop-In Program for Women and their children to attend and access a healthy lunch, workshops, 1:1 support, onsite counseling, mentorship, donations of clothing and food, and referrals to other programs in the community.

Butler Urban Farms (Kamloops Food Policy Council): The Good Food Box program and school tours for students.

PIT Stop Program (Kamloops United Church): Year-round we provide a hot, nutritious, served meal to our guests each Sunday afternoon, our guests include seniors, youths, families, and adults, many of whom may be marginalized or street-entrenched community members.

Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services Society: Vantage point worked with our Board members to create succession planning, and this planning will directly impact our clients (children, youth, and families) and the Metis community.

Phoenix Centre (Kamloops Society for Alcohol and Drug Services): provides a 20, bed in-patient medical detox, youth alcohol, and drug counseling, day treatment for youth with problematic substance use issues.

Yellowhead Community Services: Food vouchers for food and transportation for individuals and families, in the form of grocery cards, farmers market food coupons, gas cards, taxi vouchers, and bus tickets.

YMCA-YWCA Kamloops: Kamloops PEACE Program offers support services and counseling to children who witness violence, and the parents’ experiencing violence or their caregivers (grandparents, extended family and foster parents).

These programs succeed through your donations to the United Way. Please support the Thompson Nicola Region United Way campaign to make either a one-time donation to the United Way, or make a pledge through payroll to donate each payday. Campaign details will be available soon. 

United Way Supports the Clearwater Regional Community Food Hub

Working with Yellowhead Community Services, United Way BC launched the Clearwater Regional Community Food Hub in July 2023. Through Regional Community Food Hubs, United Way coordinates efforts between local non-profits including organizations serving marginalized and underserved groups, school districts, faith-based organizations and food suppliers, food recovery groups, who deliver rescued food to local hubs. Programming includes food hampers and meal distribution, community gardens, food literacy and skill building, as well as funding for staff and infrastructure development. Regional Community Food Hubs are supported by United Way BC donors, the provincial government, health authorities and other funders. 

“Yellowhead Community Services Society is grateful for the funding provided through the United Way BC Regional Community Food Hub Initiative, as well as the opportunity to work with our partners to continue to provide further access to nourishing, healthy, and culturally appropriate food for all residents in the communities we serve throughout the North Thompson,” Christine Peterson, Chief Executive Officer, Yellowhead Community Services Society. 

Yellowhead Community Services has provided food security programming to Clearwater since 2001 making them an ideal steward for this Food Hub. A steward organization works with nonprofits, First Nations and Indigenous-led groups to assess and help meet the unique food needs of the region that it serves. In Clearwater, the involvement of volunteers is key to the success of many food security programs. Hiring a Food Security Coordinator allows for volunteer coordination and growth of the program to better meet area food needs. While increased food storage space – think refrigerators and freezers, allows for storage of donations and food sourced through Yellowhead’s gleaning program. 

“Yellowhead Community Services is well embedded in Clearwater with great programs to support families and seniors. They have also identified service gaps like providing childcare for those interested in attending food literacy workshops and promoting First Nations hunting and fishing knowledge to increase Indigenous food sources. Closing these gaps means better health and well-being for the community,” says Kendahl Cardinal, Food Security Manager with United Way BC. “United Way BC is excited to be working with Yellowhead Community Services as the steward organization for our twenty-first Regional Community Food Hub. Their localized approach can lead to long-term impact for and with the region.” 

Serving a growing need 

In 2022/23, there were 20 Regional Community Food Hubs across the province. In March, United Way BC received $7.5 million from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction to expand Regional Community Food Hubs to rural, Northern and Indigenous communities over the next five years. Regional Community Food Hubs will expand at the rate of up to five Hubs per year. The Clearwater Food Hub is the first of these.  

United Way BC is committed to building a healthier, more equitable and sustainable food system for British Columbians.

Clearwater Regional Food Hub impact story: 

Child and Youth (and Caregiver) Mental Well-being

Camp StarfishUnited Way provides funding for Child and Youth (and Caregiver) Mental Well-being to local agency partners with either existing or new programs and projects. These initiatives promote adaptability, resiliency, communication skills, emotional regulation, problem-solving, cultural diversity, intergenerational teachings, cultural expressions, identity, a sense of belonging, life skills, and prosocial behaviour. 

 United Way’s agency partners use the funding to support kids and youth in the following ways:  

  • Increased Engagement – Inclusive and strengths-based programming that fosters social connectedness and positive relationship building. 

  • Knowledge Sharing and Increased Life skills – Promoting cultural diversity and expressions, as well as intergenerational ways of health and well-being among children and youth.  

  • Empowering Youth (ages 13 – 29) – Providing opportunities for youth to learn skills and gain experience that enhances their capacity to make healthy life choices and create positive impact in their community.  

  • Supporting Children (ages 0 – 12) – Providing opportunities for children to learn and gain experience that enhances their capacity to make healthy life choices and reach their emotional and developmental milestones. 

  • Access to training and resources for Caregivers – Defined as someone with a family or a cultural connection to or a strong relationship with a child in need, who cares for that child full‐time, on either a temporary or a permanent basis. 

Several agencies in the Thompson Nicola Cariboo region have received funding to provide supportive programming and contribute to the well-being of local communities. 

The Kamloops-Cariboo Regional Immigrants Society offers the Wild Edition of Mentoring, Empowerment, and Tutoring (MET). On the morning of Friday, August 11, 2023, a group of 15 newcomer and immigrant youth boarded a bus to travel to Wells Gray Provincial Park, many for the very first time. There they learned about the impressive park waterfalls and the geology that formed them. They had the chance to try wild huckleberries, a traditional indigenous food source, as well as talk to BC Parks ambassadors and see the furs and skulls of a variety of animals that live in the park. They stopped in at Edgewood Blue, an interpretive learning center, and saw the lodge home of Castor the beaver along the wetland path there. On the way home they were surprised by a special treat, a stop at Murray Mountain Ice Cream! The trip was full of new learning and experiences of a Canadian park space, as well as an opportunity for social interaction and intercultural learning amongst all the attendees originating from countries across the world. On the bus ride home nearly everyone had fallen asleep, after a day filled with incredible activities that they will never forget and never would have imagined being able to experience without the help of the United Way.

The Mental Health Promoting Programming is offered in Clearwater and is making a difference for youth. They had one youth with a long track record of non-attendance in previous communities. This individual found a pathway to engagement and wellness by accessing the upper gym after school where they benefited from the available space and mentorship to build connections and pursue physical wellness. This youth is now volunteering to support other students, creating a wonderful full-circle example. The program also supports a youth Dungeons and Dragons games program which provides a venue for youth who may not traditionally feel included or part of a group to find a sense of belonging. This group, which currently meets once a week, is welcoming and includes youth from various marginalized intersectionalities. As winter approaches, there are plans to potentially expand this group. 

The Kamloops Community YMCA - YWCA PEACE Child & Youth Counseling Program hosted Camp Starfish, a therapeutic summer camp focused on peer support. They invited both children and youth currently accessing services and those on the program’s waitlist. Since September of the previous year, the program has been working with a small family. Two out of the three children in the family have accessed services and attended the camp. After the first day of camp, the oldest child, initially hesitant about counseling, decided to give it a try. The counselors accommodated his request and made room for him in his peer group the following week. Though he expressed interest only in the trampoline place initially, the counselors respected his wishes while encouraging him to observe other activities. Within an hour he transitioned from observation to full engagement in art, play, and discussions. Impressively, he allowed his mom to enroll him in one-on-one counseling with the PEACE program for the upcoming fall. The counselors are looking forward to conducting dyad work with the family, including the mom and children, and express hope for positive changes in family dynamics. 

The Tk’emlups to Secwépemc Le7 te Melamen Project (Good Medicine) Youth Impact Story reflects a positive experience. The participant acknowledges the project as a valuable opportunity, noting the lessons learned dealing with challenging situations and gaining insights into what constitutes a healthy and safe environment. The individual expressed a desire for another chance to partake in the program and emphasized its potential benefits for youth, highlighting its significance in fostering personal growth and well-being. 

Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society’s Family Stepping Stones offers the only women’s second-stage housing in Kamloops. This program is accommodating five women and their children who live in long-term supportive housing to stabilize their lives. With a focus on individualized programming tailored to each woman and her children, Family Stepping Stones creates a safe and supportive environment. The program’s goal is to keep families together until they are prepared to transition to independent living, fostering stability and independence for those it serves.

Youth Futures Education Fund – Education is the Pathway to a Brighter Future

Ever since she was a little girl, Elanis knew she wanted to make a difference with her life. Her experience as a toddler in foster care, and the difficulties she faced when she was adopted at the age of 6, inspired her passion to become a social worker. “I want to be there for children and youth that might feel like no one is listening to them. I know what they may be going through.”

With support from the Youth Futures Education Fund (YFEF), Elanis is well on her way to creating the life she wants. The fund was established to cover basic living expenses like rent, food, bills, and textbooks. Elanis was relieved to learn she could use it when her old car broke down, and when she needed new tires. She didn’t have to miss a class and she wasn’t left with bills she wouldn’t have been able to pay. “I’m so passionate about wanting to be a social worker and being in this program. I want to be able to give them my all, and not have to worry about these other things.”

Now a young adult, Elanis is in her final year of school to become a child welfare social worker. Her lived experience is a strong driver for wanting to help other youth as they navigate life in foster care. “Your donations to United Way BC have helped me to focus solely on my studies and have helped to alleviate some of the pressure that full-time students feel with studies and living expenses. Thank you for investing in my education, career, and future.”

For young adults who have been in government care, a post-secondary education can seem out of reach. Although a tuition waiver program gives them the opportunity for education, additional funding can be the difference between earning a degree or not being able to continue because of financial pressures.

That’s where YFEF is making a difference. Basic annual living expenses for students amounts to $26,400 on average. For those living on their own with little or no family support, like Elanis, simply making rent can be a huge challenge. The fund also helps with expenses like technology, fuel for the car, phone bills, healthcare, and food. It’s vital support as the cost of living continues to rise.

YFEF partners with 27 post-secondary institutions throughout the province to ensure equal access to education. This includes Thompson Rivers University, where Elanis is studying. In 2020-2021, over $550,000 was disbursed, providing 519 students with low-barrier access to funds.

“Thanks to British Columbia’s Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, we’re seeing more former youth in care attend post-secondary than ever before and the resultant need for help with living expenses also continues to grow,” says Maureen Young, Coast Capital’s vice-president social purpose and chair of the Youth Futures Education Fund.

A Day in the Life of a School’s Out Program

The school bell rings.

Each weekday afternoon at approximately 2:30 p.m. many Grade 1-7 students run out of their classrooms in excitement. They aren’t excited to head home, but instead to head to their School’s Out program since they know they’ll get to hang out with their friends (including peers and cool adult leaders), play some fun games, and have some healthy snacks. Some are from homes where the family is struggling to make ends meet, some are newcomers to Canada who are working on their English skills, and some kids are looking for social interaction, a sense of belonging, and a safe and comfortable environment.  Regardless, all students anxiously scoot into the program. They’re ready to check-in and share how they’re feeling, for their healthy afternoon snack, and to talk about their school day highlights with each other and the afterschool staff.

Immediately following the refreshment, time is set aside for physical activity.  Sometimes students pair off in a game of soccer, while the rest run to the swings and slide for playground fun. On the days that the weather hampers outdoor enjoyment, exercise is moved indoors.  Either way, it’s refreshing to hear kids voice their excitement and laughter.  The excess energy being burned will provide the opportunity for better focus with some of the other learning activities later. As active play wraps up, the students scurry to work on some learning activities. Some of the School’s Out program leaders facilitate discussions around different cultures and stories. Others focus on community projects to help students build a sense of community and understand their own responsibilities. Some students can get help with homework, work on their reading, or even get some tutoring support under the helpful eye of our School’s Out program leaders. The common motivation among School’s Out staff and volunteers seems to be that a healthy and resilient child will have the tools they need to progress into adulthood and be future pillars of our communities.

At the end of their workday, weary parents and caregivers stop by to pick up their students with the opportunity to relax and enjoy their evening family time together. Some students in rural and remote BC communities rely on their School’s Out program to transport them home, in which case they get to enjoy a fun bus ride home. Every School’s Out program differs depending on the community it’s in, but the goal is to always to help kids be the best that they can be and to meet five key outcome domains: Social and Emotional Learning, Connectedness, Service to Community, Health and Wellness, and Interests and Competencies.

To learn more, please check out Schools Out story and video for this year’s United Way British Columbia Campaign: Angelyca’s School’s Out Story - United Way British Columbia (uwbc.ca).

While this story takes place in the Lower Mainland, there are very similar stories happening locally, within the Thompson-Nicola-Cariboo Region which includes the communities of Kamloops, Ashcroft, and soon to be, Merritt!

To learn more, please go to: School's Out Programs For At-Risk Youth | United Way BC (uwbc.ca).

Contact Us