Faces of United Way: Andy

“Balwin is a school with a highly socially vulnerable population, lots of poverty, lots of trauma, lots of refugees. And so because of that population, United Way is involved with Edmonton public in a number of ways, mainly through the Family Centre, E4C, Tools for School and in many other ways. They built the park at the back of the school as part of their day of caring. So the United Way has had a huge impact on improving the lives of our kids and taking them out of that cycle of poverty. We have so many supports in this school that other schools just don’t have because the United Way funds organizations that can come into the school and provide therapy, provide success coaching, and provide individuals to go into homes and support to end that cycle.”

“We’ve got kids who have come from refugee camps, so things like getting those kids to line up is a challenge because for them what they saw in a line up was, I’m going to have to beat my neighbour to get to the rice—it’s trauma inducing. So in this school we have to address our processes and how we do things because we can traumatize the kids just by doing stuff that we take for granted … United Way is supporting us in making sure that we can address those things and that we are looking at things proactively from a position of love … What we have here is a community coming together to make sure that kids can succeed.”

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“These kids are lucky. If they’re not getting a meal at home, they’re getting one here because the school is supported by E4C, which is funded by the United Way. A kid doesn’t go hungry here so learning can happen and then they can give back and end the cycle of poverty for themselves. United Way evens out opportunities so many ways: whether it’s food or social or emotional, ending trauma … and they don’t just do it for the kids, they do it for the families so the cycle of poverty just grinds to a stop and the kids can achieve.”

“The kids here, what they see from the United Way is that there are people out there who care, that poverty can be ended, and that they can achieve something greater than what they thought before. It gives them the capacity to understand that they can also make a difference. In our school too that caring leads to us going out into the community and doing things to give back. In the winter, we have a snow patrol. It started as that block over there and now we will shovel all the way from sixty-sixth, all the way over to the school here and up the side streets. We take a period and everyone goes out with shovels. There’s a lot of older families here who can’t shovel their own walks, so we just do it. Those little things are inspired by the kids’ desire to give back because they see that that’s part of what a good Canadian citizen does.”

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.