Poverty is not inevitable

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life-Nelson Mandela

At a time of instant reaction, the mere mention of the word poverty can bring up some divisive discussions.

That’s true of any issue these days.   Witness the conversation around the coming legalization of marijuana, or visit the comments section below any article about the region’s Light Rail Transit project.

We seem to live in a most cynical time, expecting the worst from each other.   Even if that other person might be living a similar life.    Here’s an interesting article on that phenomenon

It doesn’t mean we’re not looking for good in the world.   Maybe even desperately so, if the popularity of Fiona the Hippo is any indication.

And perhaps that’s why, at this time of year, the story of a good Samaritan touches us all.

Mr Mandela’s quote has been analyzed extensively since he spoke in 2005.    But at the very base of it, he encourages us to work together to solve a problem.

It was some 25 years ago, actually, closer to 30 when our federal government pledged to end child poverty in Canada.   By the year 2000.  And here we are.     1 in 10 people in Waterloo Region live below the low income threshold.

Maybe you’re one of those people who believes people who are poor….are “just lazy”    Or perhaps, those on Ontario Works are spending their monthly amounts on items you don’t consider necessities.   We’ve touched on some of those thoughts in a previous blog.

But there is movement.

Ontario is experimenting with a guaranteed minimum income.   The federal government just recently announced a new National Housing Strategy

These will take time.    But today, we can take action to move people out of poverty, to ensure the services they need are available at every step along the way.    You can donate right now


December 6: Remember and Act.

It has been almost 30 years since the horrific attack at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, where 14 women were murdered.   Just because they were women.

This article, from Raise the Hammer provides plenty of information on the issues surrounding violence against women.

The Canadian Foundation for Women also has an insightful piece on the number of women in poverty, and why that’s a particularly important segment of the discussion.

United Way Waterloo Region Communities supports dozens of agencies and programs touching almost every part of the region.

Many of them have a straight line connection to women who suffer abuse— places like Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region but many others also have a part to play.  Organizations providing counseling for individuals and families or providing support to children when their home life begins to implode.

It’s all part of what we call a “network of services”.   We know people will often access more than one service…..from a shelter, to a food bank to counseling. United Way exists to ensure that network is in place.

United Way is also there to provide information on the services anyone might need.    Locally, and across the country we fund the 211 …..  Available over the phone–with the 211 code—or online 211 is a directory  which can point you in the right direction no matter what kind of help is required.

On this day of remembrance and mourning, we ask you to take action.   Whether that’s by donating to your local women’s shelter, or any other organization you support, or by volunteering, or by lending a supportive ear, you can truly make a difference.


What you don’t know: United Way in November

You’re forgiven if you think of United Way as an organization you might only hear about during a workplace campaign.

Behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on, and not just in our offices.   Out there–in the real world where people are looking for information, and ways they can make a difference.

Last month,  November of 2017, we facilitated 9 Day of Caring events.  During a Day of Caring, you and your team will go to one of our supported agencies, and donate your time, expertise and energy to helping them out.

These projects can last up to seven hours, and can involve a variety of tasks, from painting, to yard work.   And along the way you’ll learn about the valuable work being done right here at home, supported by United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

Those Days of Caring last month added up to 270 volunteer hours with participants from three different workplaces.     Our volunteers provided food sorting and meal prep, painting and packaging to the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank, Nutrition for Learning, Kinbridge, and Community Support Connections Meals on Wheels.

We also hosted a Seeing is Believing tour with our partners from BMO.  Almost a dozen people visited three agencies —   oneROOF, Carizon, and House of Friendship.  There. they learned about the function of each of those organizations, and how their connection to United Way Waterloo Region Communities is helping to change the power of poverty.    You can learn more about Seeing is Believing opportunities from our website.

Education is a key part of the work we do in the seven communities which make up Waterloo Region.   United Way WRC is one of the partners, along with many other United Way agencies in Canada, in a program called Make the Month.  Here’s a link to some media coverage of this program.

Make the Month invites groups of people to meet with a representative of United Way to go through a poverty simulation–recreating the difficult choices faced by people living below the low-income threshold. (That’s 1 out of 10 people in Waterloo Region)

In November we ran the local version of the Make the Month simulator for four groups, providing an eye opening, and at times heart wrenching experience for almost 100 people.   You can contact our Community Engagement  team if you’re interested in learning more.

While the year is drawing quickly to a close, we are continuing to work with both our agency partners, as well as our supporters to provide more information about the work of United Way.

Thank you for checking us out….  Give where you Live.




The real work of United Way-Seeing is Believing

“I was shocked to discover how many people are falling through the cracks…you just assume there’s a system in place for everyone”- Seeing is Believing participant, October 2017


It’s a question we hear quite often.  “How does United Way work?”

And we are more than happy to answer it.   Over the years we have found it to be very helpful to host “Seeing is Believing” tours.

These tours allow you to see, up close, the “on the ground” efforts underway to create a community where poverty has no power.

You’ll have the opportunity to speak with some of our agency partners on the work they do, and how their connection with United Way Waterloo Region Communities makes a real difference.    As well, you’ll be learning alongside other people, who are every bit as intrigued about how they can help the 1 in 10 people in our region who live beneath the low income threshold.

We run Seeing is Believing tours at all times of the year, and we would love to have you join us.   Our events are usually scheduled from 6 to 7:30 PM –a light dinner will be provided.

We’re working on a new schedule of Seeing is Believing tours.    We’ll have that out to you as soon as possible.


10 Reasons to support United Way this season

The period from Mid November through the end of the year is sometimes called “The Giving Season”

A recent survey by Imagine Canada indicates more than 60 per cent of people want to make a donation during this time of year.  

For many of us, giving now can be a powerful lesson for our kids….appreciating how fortunate they are, and sharing that good fortune with someone who perhaps does not have the same advantages.

There are a great many important and compelling causes.  We encourage you to support whichever organization speaks to your heart or is making the difference you want to see .

We would like you to consider United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

  1. Experience: For more than 75 years United Way has been helping the most vulnerable people in our communities.   Beginning with aiding soldier’s families in 1941, to today, where we touch every corner of the region, United Way has the partnerships, vision and expertise to give your donation its greatest impact.
  2. Collaboration:   Your donations work through the best and most passionate of the nonprofit organizations in our region. Listening to each of them, we can support programs and initiatives providing the help people need, when they most need it.
  3. We love where we live: Your donation stays in Waterloo Region funding programs at more than 40 agencies. Approximately 80 per cent of each dollar is distributed to help people right here.
  4. Transparency and Accountability:   We are registered with Canada Revenue Agency as a charitable organization, and subject to all their rules and regulations.   Our financial reports are available online and our office is just a phone call away.
  5. Big. But Focused:   We are the largest funder of social service programs outside of government. Nationally, United Way invests hundreds of  millions of dollars annually. Here at home, we are right in your backyard, funding programs such as Neighbourhood Matching Grants, which provides dollars to local residents trying to make a difference on their own street.
  6. Efficiency:   We work across a broad spectrum, raising funds for our partners, while taking part in discussions on how, and what to deliver in the way of programs. It’s an interconnected web of support providing real value
  7. Advocacy: United Way is a key partner in the recently released National Housing Strategy, and locally, we are part of big issue discussions ranging from Living Wage Waterloo Region, to the Children and Youth Planning Table, the Immigration Partnership, and Wellbeing Waterloo Region.
  8. This is Us:   1 in 10 people in Waterloo Region live in poverty.   They could be your friends, family or co-workers.   You know them. You just don’t know.
  9. We’re not looking for quick fixes: We are working for solutions. That’s why we reach out to government officials, agencies and more. That’s why we research, and apply what we learn to problems right here.
  10. Together, we are possibility:   No one organization can tackle our social issues alone. We know people in vulnerable situations often access multiple sources for help. We call it a “network of support” and that’s what your donations are building.

 Please consider supporting United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

Love where you live.  Give where you live

Your part in ending homelessness and poverty.

It covers 10 years, and will invest some 40 billion dollars, but the work is just beginning for the National Housing Strategy announced by the Federal government.

United Way Centraide Canada played a lead role in consultations on this strategy, backed up by the dozens of United Way agencies across the country, including United Way Waterloo Region communities.

Is there a more important building block for our lives, than a stable and safe place to live?

You might think the housing issue is embodied in the homeless people many of us have witnessed.

About 250 thousand people in Canada were listed as homeless in 2016, according to Canada Without Poverty.    But an estimated 3 million people are “precariously housed”—in simple terms…living in below standard, unaffordable, or overcrowded conditions.

Much closer to home. Waterloo Region is in many ways, ahead of the curve on the housing issue, but still, demand for affordable housing far exceeds the supply, meaning about three thousand people are on a waiting list.

A lot of money is to be invested by the federal government, the provinces and municipalities, and sometimes the political will to do that can be weakened.  But there is lots of evidence to support the belief stabilizing housing situations will reduce much of the spending being done on social issues.

Over the coming weeks, months, and indeed, years, United Way will be continuing to work  and advocate for the achievement of the goals stated in the National Housing Strategy.

What can you do?     Learn more about the National Housing Strategy, and the impact it could have.  Get involved….there are many groups in our region working on social issues, including United Way Waterloo Region Communities.    And advocate.  Like almost anything, if we want the people in our community to be stronger, and more self reliant, we have to work together.



Mind Your Memes: Research in the Giving Season.


“People should never be paid if they work for a non profit”

“You’re paying your people too much”

“None of your donations go where you say ”

We are full bore into the holiday season, which now appears to start on November 12th.

As we all know, this time of year is crucial for retailers of all types, and the it’s the same story for many charities.

Many smaller charities gather a significant amount of their support from now until the end of the year. 

And this time also heralds the arrival of internet memes about charity, fund raising, et cetera.

The one to your left has been circulating recently, and there are others which carry a very similar message.

United Way is the largest funder of social services outside of government, and as a non profit—-we get it.

You do have legitimate concerns about where, and how your donation is spent, no matter who is receiving it.

And you should do your research.   But memes like this one….aren’t research.   This particular  example is  full of inaccuracies ..and outright lies.

It claims to be from Snopes, a well known fact checking website. (Spoiler alert–It’s not)

This is a report  from Snopes on a similar meme. 

On a wider scale, here’s a link to an article from Imagine Canada —an organization which builds bridges between charities, and the private sector—about the issue of paid employees in the non profit sector

There are more than 86 thousand registered non-profits in Canada, and, quite honestly, with that number, there will always be some bad apples.   The Canada Revenue Agency has an online tool which allows you to search out any organizations registered with them, and their status.

At the end of the day, your donation is about YOU and the causes in which you believe.   False memes are only hurting the thousands of legitimate charities who are working every day to make lives better.   Sharing them—even if you add a note such as  “I don’t know how much of this is true…but”  isn’t doing anyone a favour.

Next week is Giving Tuesday, and hundreds of good organizations in our region will be looking for your support.    We hope you will stay generous.

If you have questions about the work of United Way Waterloo Region Communities, feel free to contact us by telephone or email.  We’ll be happy to talk.





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GenNext Year End Celebration

Are you looking to invest your passion in our community?   And meet some interesting people along the way?

We invite you to our final GenNext event of 2017, where we will celebrate the great work which has been done, and welcome new participants who want to come on board.

GenNext WRC is a group for young professionals who truly want to make a difference.  Over the past year or so it has examined many different issues, ranging from the gentrification of downtown, and the impact it has on inviduals, to the growing concern of financial literacy.


Join us for our final GenNext event of the year where we will celebrate the past year, and look ahead to 2018 with some new friends.

You will have the chance to meet folks from across the Region that have been helping to change the power of poverty.There is a limited number of $10 tickets available; get yours before they are sold out! Register now.

National Philanthropy Day November 15

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, philanthropy is defined as “good will to fellow members of the human race; especially :active effort to promote human welfare”

But these days, most of us probably tie the word to a monetary donation. And there might even be a significant number of people who use the word only to describe those people at the very highest level of giving.

But that’s not what it’s all about


Five years ago, Canada became the first country to permanently recognize November 15th as National Philanthropy Day.

It’s mean to encourage giving at all levels, and not only on a monetary basis.  Giving of your time, skills and energy has a great deal of value to every non-profit organization, and your passion will likely inspire others!    Don’t be shy…..spreading the word about your good work is always a great idea.

As we head toward the holiday season, you’ll hear a lot more about giving, and about the many needs which our communities have.    While you’re considering who to support, here’s some good information on how to make your donations work to your own benefit.

Sadly, of course, there are too many people who will take advantage of your kindness through charity scams.     It’s a concern or us as well, because it appears more and more people translate their concern about fraud, into a smaller level of giving to legitimate organization

Here are a few things to think about as you consider donating

  1.  Charity scams are often quite common after large scale disasters.  The aftermath of the Fort McMurray wildfires offer some examples     It’s easy to get swept up in the emotion.  Make sure you do your homework   Canada Revenue offers a convenient search tool to find out if a charity is registered
  2. Both door to door, and online scams are common.   And they can often come with a significant amount of pressure.   If you’re feeling that, walk away.   You’re making an investment in what you hope to be a good cause.   And you need to feel comfortable.
  3. Legitimate charitable organizations will always be willing to share their information for you.   Transparency is important.   For example on our website, you’ll find names and information of all the people who oversee what we do in the community.


We’d love to have you support National Philanthropy Day.


Forever Fund Deadline Extended!

We’re giving you some extra time to come up with a great idea.   The deadline to apply for Forever Fund grants has been extended to December 22nd.

Grants are generated by an  endowment fund, and used to support programs and initiatives right here in Waterloo Region.

We’re focusing on investments which “change the power of poverty” in very specific ways.

Grants are available in two areas.

  • 1) Mental health supports for families and children
  • 2) Innovative ideas for seniors at risk

Here are some examples of past grant recipients.

In 2016 Supportive Housing of Waterloo received a grant for it’s Community Hoarding Maintenance program.   While many of us might be aware of hoarding from some TV productions, it’s a serious concern.  And poses some difficulties for the elderly, and their caregivers.

And we think you probably didn’t know Supportive Housing of Waterloo was involved in the issue.

In 2015, Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region received support for its “Partnering with a new Lens” project.    You can read all about that program right here

They are just two examples of the work going on with many of our United Way WRC Partners.   As we say, many of these problems are complex, and require the work of several agencies to make a real difference.

Applying for a Forever Fund Grant is a simple process.

Tell our staff  about your ideas or initiative at grants@uwaywrc.ca

Once we have had a look, and run that through our filters, we’ll be in contact with additional criteria, and a link to our online application portal.

Applications are due by Friday December 22nd

If you have any questions contact us at the email above!