Seeing is Believing

“I have a better understanding how United Way helps support many programs in the community and how our contributions go a long way.”-Seeing is Believing participant, May 2018

United Way Waterloo Region Communities is dedicated to helping people live better lives in every one of the seven communities we serve.

But how does it work? How does a donation to United Way translate through our partners?

In May of 2018,  12 volunteers from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada joined us for a “Seeing is Believing” tour so they could better understand the role United Way Waterloo Region Communities plays in delivering opportunities to thousands of our friends, neighbours and co-workers.

1 in 4 people in Waterloo Region fall in the lowest levels of literacy.


The Literacy Group, which has locations in both Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo is working every day to change that startling statistic.  As Program Manager Lisa McArthur told our Toyota champions, “Literacy is one door which opens to a much wider network of possibilities”

The Literacy Group receives significant funding from Employment Ontario as program participants try to shorten the difference between the skills they have, and the skills they need to improve their job situation and provide for their families.  But United Way Waterloo Region Communities also provides financial support.

Executive Director Chris Prosser says The Literacy Group has a very diverse group of clients with very different individual needs, and the provincial government doesn’t cover everything.  “Through United Way” says Chris, “we are able to be more aware, and responsive to each individual’s situation”

“This was eye-opening for me!”-Seeing is Believing participant, May 2018

1 in 5 adults will go through a mental health challenge in their lifetime.

While the conversation around mental health appears to be changing, there’s still a significant amount of stigma around the issue.  Our Seeing is Believing tour gave Toyota’s champions a chance to hear directly from someone willing to share their experiences.

“Christine’s story was powerful. To have made a 180 degree turn in her life and come out wanting to help others is remarkable. ” -Seeing is Believing participant, May 2018

United Way Waterloo Region Communities is a significant supporter of mental health initiatives. From KW Counselling to the CMHA Waterloo Wellington, your donations help people find the courage to take the first step, and the support to take the next one.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work of United Way Waterloo Region Communities, sign up for a Seeing is Believing tour.  You can start that process by contacting us via email


Digging It-Day of Caring with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada

“It was a great way to spend a day and make a difference”-Day of Caring Participant


It wasn’t a normal work day for any of us. A group of Toyota Motor Manfacturing Canada employees and some staff from United Way Waterloo Region Communities traded in their usual employment tools for pitchforks, shovels and gloves at the Rare Charitable Reserve community gardens.  For more than 7 hours we worked our way from fruit trees to potato planting to rows of beans, squash and zucchini.

United Way Waterloo Region Communities works alongside both the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank, and the Food Bank of Waterloo Region to address the issue of food insecurity.

The Springbank Food Bank Gardens at Rare offer an opportunity for people to “get their hands dirty” and really help out. The gardens cover more than 15 thousand square feet just off Blair Road.  For the last couple of years they have produced more than 6 thousand pounds of fresh food.  Healthy and nutritious meals can be a challenge for people struggling with food insecurity.

Our group on this particular day was charged with a big job.

Last year more than 60 fruit trees were planted on the property, thanks to a generous donation from a local grower.  This time of year, it’s necessary to remove the straw around the base of each tree, and then get down to the hard work of digging out the weeds with a pitchfork.  After that we loaded up wheelbarrows full of compost (created from a huge pile of leaves donated by a nearby resident last fall) and spread that around the base.  Fresh bales of straw were brought in so we could cover that nutrient rich compost, and give these trees a great start on their summer. 

The trees won’t be producing any fruit this year.  Supervisors at the garden say they will be far better off, and more robust if they are given another year to settle in before becoming productive.  But in 2019 these trees will be providing fresh fruit to kids and families who might not otherwise be able to afford such important parts of a healthy diet.

After a break for lunch we headed off to another part of the garden to plant what some call one of the world’s most versatile foods–the potato!   

Thankfully someone else had already done most of the weeding (most of us were done with weeds for the day!).  After a little bit of raking, and the creation of a couple of trenches we simply dropped in the potatoes, covered them up, and applied some water.  Nature will take of the rest.

The rest of the afternoon was filled by creating more beds and planting them with a variety of other vegetables.

All of us on the day have had some experience gardening but everyone agreed it was a different feeling to know the work you had invested was going to pay off for some people who really need the help.

Thanks to the great team at Rare, and our partners at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada we know plates, and bellies will be full of nutritious food later this year.

If you’re interested in bringing a team in for a volunteer opportunity we can help.  We’re currently re-invigorating our Days of Caring initiative, and we’ll have more information on that in the next few weeks.

Is Technology a Force for Good?

“Tech for Good”

That was the theme of the True North conference held last week in Waterloo Region.

For many of us, the life changing aspects of technology might only extend as far as the smartphone we carry everywhere.

Has that been a force for good?  If you look at the issue, every major technological innovation has both good and bad connected with it.

At one point, the automobile, as noted in this article was a “toy for the rich” but it soon became a powerful force, as one historian put it “freeing people from the limits of their geography”

On the other hand, the Association for Safe International Road Travel says more than 32 hundred people are killed in car crashes each day around the world.  Technological innovations in other industries have improved productivity, but have also eliminated jobs.

Former Governor General David Johnston opened the second day of the conference unveiling the Tech for Good Declaration. 

  1. Build trust and respect your data.
  2. Be transparent and give choice
  3. Reskill the future of work
  4. Leave no one behind
  5. Think inclusively at every stage
  6. Actively participate in collaborative governance.

You can read the full declaration and the accompanying explanation at the link above.

But it really comes down to another sentence from Mr. Johnston.

“Do the right thing. Not just the thing right”


True North described itself this way:




Technology is inevitable. But what does it mean to be human in a tech-driven world? As we speed towards an unknown future, there are fundamental, difficult and sometimes scary issues that will divide and unite us.

True North is a two-day conversation about the intersection of humans and technology. It’s an opportunity to imagine and re-imagine the impact of technology — the good and the bad. To examine the values that guide technology innovation. And to redefine tech as a force for good.

As Bozoma Saint John, the Chief Brand Officer for Uber told True North attendees, “The intention of technology is to make life better”

But she also noted, as we all go through our lives “There are rare moments of empathy. How often do we miss them?”

Last week’s conference covered a wide range of topics. Beyond the workshop creating the Tech for Good declaration, participants also heard from industry leaders like Shopify’s Loren Padelford who says his company’s e-commerce technology is doing good by empowering people to create their own businesses.

There is, as we said earlier, good and bad in everything.

Where do we go from here?

We’re looking for a few good ideas. Forever Fund grant applications now being accepted.

Expressive Arts Therapy for children and their parents.

A Friendship Connection program which brings teens together with seniors.

Those are two programs being powered by the Forever Fund. The fund, a part of United Way supported by an endowment, looks for innovative programs which touch on two specific issues.

  1. Mental health supports for children and families
  2. Innovative initiatives for seniors at risk.

Expressive Arts Therapy:

Created by YW Kitchener-Waterloo,this program is targeting families living in supportive housing.  At one time or another all of the participants have experienced homelessness. That’s a traumatizing experience for anyone, and it’s not unusual in this particular target group to see major depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse.

1 in 3 homeless mothers has attempted suicide-Raising the Roof, 2016

The project hopes to change the impact of poverty on the children and families taking part by providing an emotional outlet. The delivery of the program will move through supportive housing locations in Waterloo.


The Friendship Connection:

Developed by Community Support Connections-Meals on Wheels and More,this is a new take on the well established and popular Friendly Visitor program.

“Join our team to deliver meals and smiles” is the first line on the Friendly Visitor website.

The Friendship Connection takes this idea to a much higher level, where a volunteer forms a group with multiple seniors as opposed to a one-on-one connection.  It will also integrate the passion and talents of post secondary students looking for meaningful career related experiences.

For seniors, they won’t need to wait as long to enter the program. Once the group is up and running, they will be interacting with not only the volunteer, but with a group of their peers. Lack of contact with others is a serious issue for seniors.

More than 1 in 3 women over the age of 65 live alone- Statistics Canada

Without a local network of family or friends, a senior can soon become isolated or withdrawn.


United Way Waterloo Region Communities is now looking for applications for the next round of Forever Fund support. Once again grants will be considered for programs in the streams mentioned above.

It’s a simple three step process.

Step 1: Contact United Way Waterloo Region Communities about your interest in a Forever Fund grant by emailing Brian Kamm.

Step 2: If your program or initiative fits, you will receive additional criteria and a link to the online application portal.

Step 3: Submit your completed application package to United Way Waterloo Region Communities by 5 p.m. on Friday July 13th.

Your organization could be the one making a concrete difference in the lives of children, families or seniors!