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Tilak Chawan

Association for New Canadians

Poverty to Possibility

At the young age of four, Tilak and his family moved from conflict-stricken Bhutan to the hope of a new life, and survival in Nepal. After two years spent living on a river bank, Tilak and his family moved into a refugee camp where they lived for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, life didn't improve much in the camp, and Tilak's family often went without food, medical assistance was very limited, and they felt more like animals in a zoo than people. Survival was priority, happiness always a distant second.

When the opportunity arose to move out of the camp and into a new country, Tilak's family was thrilled with the idea. Three years after their initial talks with the International Organization of Migration, Tilak's family was finally enroute to their new life in St. John's. Upon arrival, they were met with a welcoming committee from the Association for New Canadians and immediately taken under its wing. The family was schooled in the legal system, managing finances, personal hygiene, shopping, the English language, and other important life skills essential to survival in their new country.

Fast forward three years later, and Tilak has come full circle and now works for the Association for New Canadians as a Settlement Worker in Schools. His job is to ensure that newcomer students integrate seamlessly into the school system and adjust to their new surroundings. Over and above this, Tilak has volunteered quite a bit of time in support of the Community Funded, Diversity Training Initiative that aims to educate individuals within schools, post-secondary and community groups on diversity. Tilak gives of his time to provide the perspective of someone new to the province, and the challenges that often face newcomers.

When you contribute to the United Way Community Fund, you are supporting programs like the Diversity Training Initiative where individuals who have come from nothing are given the opportunity to start over and become a contributing member of society, free of discrimination. You are supporting a movement from Poverty to Possibility in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Jessica Wall

Big Brothers Big Sisters

All That Kids Can Be

At a very young age, Jessica Wall suffered the sudden passing of her mother. At any age this would be devastating, but at such a young and impressionable age, it's impossible to imagine the anguish she endured and continues to endure as a young woman. Luckily for Jessica, between her grandmother, aunts, cousins, teachers, cadet officers, social workers and friends, she has had a multitude of female role models step-in to guide her.

As Jessica reached an age where she could recognize and appreciate the positive impact these role models had had on her life, she decided it was only right to repay them in the best way she could – by becoming a positive role model herself. Having strong, confident and supportive role models had made all the difference in her life and she wanted to pass this on to others.

It was at this time that Jessica became involved with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and its Go Girls program. The Go Girls program is a mentoring program for young girls between 12-14 at the fundamental age where they are struggling to find who they are, where they belong, and how to truly love themselves. In working with these young girls, Jessica has not only become a valued mentor in their young lives, but she has learned a lot about herself as well.

United Way has supported several Big Brothers, Big Sisters programs, including the Go Girls Program that Jessica volunteers with today. When you contribute to the United Way Community Fund, you are providing volunteers like Jessica the opportunity to give back and young girls like those in the Go Girls program, the opportunity to grow up with a positive self-image. You are ensuring that kids will be All That Kids Can Be in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Stephanie Lee

Eating Disorder Foundation, NL

Healthy People Strong Communities

When you discover a loved one is suffering with an eating disorder, your world flips upside down. There are so many mixed emotions and you find yourself lost, searching for answers. For Stephanie Lee, this was her reality. She had been dealing with her sister's eating disorder and was in search of an outlet, someone to talk to, someone to confide in, and someone who could understand what she was going through.

In an effort to sort through some of her questions, Stephanie attended various support groups and information sessions offered by the Eating Disorder Foundation; however, while she found them helpful, the content of these sessions was geared toward the parents and partners. Recognizing there were others out there just like Stephanie, the Eating Disorder Foundation applied to United Way, and received funding for the establishment of a Carer and Sibling support group.

The Siblings of Hope support group was the pillar of support Stephanie had been seeking. Through the group she met other siblings who felt as lost as she was, and together they were able to learn more about the disease and have comfort in knowing there were others going through the same thing. Stephanie's experience with the group has allowed her to approach conversations about the illness and her sister's recovery as a sibling, she is once again a 'sister' and no longer a sister acting like a parent. The support and knowledge she has gained from the Siblings of Hope support group has enabled Stephanie to not only support her sister, but her own wellbeing. She is now closer to her sister than ever before.

When you contribute to the United Way Community Fund, you are supporting programs like the Siblings of Hope support group where individuals like Stephanie are equipped with the information and resources they need to deal with a hurting loved one. You are supporting Healthy People, Strong Communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Samantha Byrd

R.E.A.L. Program

Poverty to Possibility

A decade ago, Samantha Byrd was a young girl looking for an activity to keep her busy during the summer. The City of St. John's REAL Program was just getting started and Samantha found herself enrolled in a summer camp as one of the first participants in the program. After an enjoyable summer, Samantha continued with the REAL Program and went on to participate in several other afterschool activities including soccer, dance, swimming, gymnastics, and voice lessons.

As many parents can relate, participation in one or more after school activities can be a costly endeavor; however, for those unable to afford these additional activities, the REAL Program is there to ensure all children have equal opportunity to participate. The vision of the program is that all children in the City of St. John's, regardless of financial status, should have the ability to participate in, and enjoy whatever recreational and leisurely activities they wish.

For Samantha, she discovered a true talent and passion for music in her time with the REAL Program. She learned how to read music, she participated in the Kiwanis music festival and she sang with the Newfoundland and Labrador Shalloway Youth Chorus. Now attending her second year of University, Samantha credits the REAL program with helping her realize her true potential.

When you contribute to the United Way Community Fund, you are ensuring our children have equal opportunities to find themselves through recreational and leisurely activities, regardless of their financial status. You are supporting a movement from Poverty to Possibility in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Bernard Agriesti

Seniors Resource Centre

Healthy People Strong Communities

Bernard Agriesti is a volunteer with the Seniors Resource Centre of Newfoundland and Labrador. As one of over 150 Peer Support Volunteers across the province, Bernard works with the seniors in his area to ensure good mental health in all of his peers.

In an effort to provide the necessary resources to its Peer Support Volunteers, the Seniors Resource Centre of Newfoundland and Labrador created a training program aimed to further educate its volunteers on identifying and dealing with isolation, loss, and other triggers that can negatively impact a senior's overall mental health. The training has an impact on those who take it and the people they serve. As Bernard tells us:

"As a Peer Support Volunteer for the Seniors Resource Centre of Newfoundland & Labrador, my job is to connect with seniors in my community, answer any questions they have and to listen to their concerns which can impact their well-being. Thanks to United Way - Newfoundland & Labrador funding, I and my fellow Peer Support Volunteers located across the province were able to receive training on Seniors and Mental Health. At the heart of well-being is good mental health. Our training helped us identify risk factors like isolation, loss, and change in income that can impact our mental health. Because I know more now about mental health and the resources out there that I can connect seniors with, I am doing a better job."

When you contribute to the United Way Community Fund, you are supporting volunteers like Bernard who give so freely of their time to ensure that older adults in our communities are maintaining healthy lives. You are supporting Healthy People, Strong Communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.