Vancouver Foundation

Spring 2013

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Q&A a conversation with Vancouver Foundation's president and CEO, Faye Wightman After eight years at the helm of Vancouver Foundation, Faye Wightman has announced her retirement in order to spend more time with family. She describes her time at Vancouver Foundation as being "among the most exciting and rewarding years of my career." We sat down with Wightman to discuss her career, her accomplishments and her plans for the future. Q: What stands out as the biggest change at Vancouver Foundation since you became president and CEO eight years ago? A: I would say the biggest change is the increased awareness and profile that Vancouver Foundation now has with respect to the work it does and the role it can play in making our communities stronger, healthier places to live and work. We are more frequently invited into discussions about our communities and the issues we face, and to have a voice from the not-for-profit sector at the table in these discussions is very important. Q: As you look back on your term, what are some of the accomplishments you're most proud of? A: An organization is only as strong as the people behind it, and I am lucky and humbled to have had the opportunity to work with some of the very best people. The milestones we've achieved during that time are a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication of the staff and volunteers who drive the Foundation's programs. When I look back on what we've achieved during this time, I focus on the inroads we made in specific areas such as tackling homelessness in Vancouver by setting up StreetoHome and the Youth Homelessness Initiative. We focused on the needs of families who have members with disabilities, and we developed the Giving in Action Society to support them. We brought attention to the lack of employment for skilled immigrants, and we started the Immigrant Employment Council of BC. I also look to the changes in how we work with donors to ensure we can meet their charitable goals. We are extremely flexible and donor focused. And of course, the work we do in making informed granting decisions always makes me proud. We have literally put millions of dollars into this province to make a difference in communities across BC. You can't help but feel proud to have played a small part in making these things happen. page 6 I Vancouver Foundation l Spring 2013 p6-7 CEO Q&A.indd 6 Q: What's your fondest memory of your time at Vancouver Foundation? A: Hands down, it was hearing the story of Cora, a 63-year-old Filipino woman, who received a Neighbourhood Small Grant, and the phenomenal impact that grant had on her life and her family. Cora arrived in Vancouver from the Philippines five years ago and was embarrassed at not being able to speak English. When she went out for walks in her neighbourhood, she rarely spoke to people even in her own language because her son had warned her not to talk to strangers. To put it mildly, she was very lonely and did not feel in any way part of her community or this country. Several months after her arrival, she ventured into Collingwood Neighbourhood House and signed up for ESL classes. She was the only Filipina in the class. The teacher asked someone to read a passage in English. Tentatively, Cora raised her hand. When she started reading, it was clear she needed to be in a much higher-level English class. She then started helping her Chinese, Iranian and Mexican classmates with their lessons. It was the beginning of her transformation from a frightened new immigrant living in an ethnic bubble to a woman at the centre of her community. Today, Cora teaches ESL to new immigrants. She recruits seniors from the area to join the weekly walks at the the Collingwood Neighbourhood House. In the last two years, she has organized a neighbourhood block party, an earthquake preparedness workshop, and a Halloween pumpkin carving contest and costume party. She is actively bringing people closer together in her community. When she told her story to our Board, it really hit me what a difference we can make with even a small amount of money. You literally change people's lives. It makes you want to do more. Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing community foundations today? A: People today have an unprecedented number of options available when it comes to giving to charities. In the last decade, we've seen explosive growth in the number of charitable organizations in Canada and around the world. It's estimated there are 20,000 not-for-profit organizations and 9,000 charities in BC alone. And they are all looking for support. On top of that growth in the charitable sector, media and communication technologies are creating new ways for people to reach Photo: Claudette Carracedo 13-05-22 12:32 PM

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