As part of the DP World ‘Our World, Our Future’ global sustainability programme, we believe strongly in building a vibrant, secure and resilient society through strategic investment in the issues that affect our people and our industry. While that definitely includes our own internal programmes, we also believe in helping other businesses that have similar goals reach their objectives.
There are many organizations working to improve the lives of those who call Vancouver home— it can be difficult selecting one to include in your company’s corporate social responsibility plan. To help, we’re spotlighting a variety of worthy causes. This time, we’re focusing on Aunt Leah’s Place, an organization helping kids in foster care and young mothers achieve a better future.
Aunt Leah’s Place began in the basement of foster mother, Gale Stewart, who wanted to help older foster children who were close to aging out of the system and being turned out on their own. In Vancouver, when a child in foster care turns 19, their government support ends and they are deemed ‘aged-out’ of the system. Today, almost half of these teens end up homeless.
Through her experience as a foster mom, Gale knew that foster children had the same aspirations as any child in a traditional family, but simply needed help to achieve those dreams. She founded Aunt Leah’s Place to provide the guidance and support foster children need to have a better start in life.
For over 25 years, Aunt Leah’s Place has been helping kids in foster care and young mothers achieve a better future by providing guidance, supported housing, job training and coaching on essential life skills. The organization strives to assist both ends of the spectrum – mothers who are at risk of having their children become a part of the foster system, as well as older children in the foster system and preparing to transition out.
Aunt Leah’s Place operates many different programmes designed to help meet immediate and long-term needs, including housing, life skills and education. All of these programmes are designed to create an environment where all children connected to the foster care system have equal opportunities akin to those of parented youth. Just a few examples of those programmes include:
- Aunt Leah’s House provides safe, supported housing for pregnant and parenting teen moms currently in government care.
- Thresholds provides supported housing and services for new moms at risk of losing custody of their child.
- Support Link provides transitional housing for teens currently in foster care who are looking to become independent and live on their own.
- The Friendly Landlord Network is a Metro Vancouver-wide network of homeowners and property managers, who rent suites to youth transitioning out of government care.
- Essential Skills offers a variety of weekly workshops for current and former foster youth that help participants gain valuable life skills, connect socially, and give them opportunities to participate in creative and recreational activities.
- The Link offers youth who have aged out of government care the community, resources and opportunities to help them achieve their goals and transition successfully from foster care into adulthood.
- Supporting Education for Foster Youth (SEFFY) supports long-term education planning for foster youth and former foster youth in care.
- Cooking Club is a 12-week program that helps young moms from Aunt Leah’s House and the Thresholds Program learn how to prepare tasty, nutritious meals on a budget
How Your Organization Can Help
Aunt Leah’s depends heavily on the support of the community. Because of regulations regarding background checks, the organization is not usually able to have volunteers come in and directly work with the youth or babies, but donations of time in other areas, expertise and/or money is always welcome. Specifically, businesses can help by:
- Providing “knowledge philanthropy” This involves having a business share their expertise, whether it’s in marketing, technology or other business skills with the Aunt Leah’s Place. Individuals can volunteer to spend time with leaders of the organization to provide assistance with some aspect of its day-to-day operations.
- Providing opportunities for foster children to work for your company. For example, a local film company recently created a position for a foster to get some real-world work experience in the movie industry. This type of help fulfills one of the organization’s main goals: to provide job training for foster children.
- Help out at Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree lot. For 20 years Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots have been raising money to fund their many programmes. Your business can organize a volunteer group to help out on the lot, which is a fun and rewarding activity that makes a real difference.
- Donate clothes or small furniture to the organization’s consignment shop. Aunt Leah’s Urban Thrift is located at 177 East Broadway, and a donation guide can be found here.
- Monetary donations. These are, of course, always welcome. Have your company organize a donation drive or collect money, and help out Aunt Leah’s Place financially.