It is to be expected, that in a crisis like this, many people will be put in a difficult position (or a more difficult position) and are in need of help. One incredible thing about this pandemic is that there were lots of opportunities to help, and there are different roles to fill.
It’s pretty neat to take a break from being on the organizer role (I’m talking specifically about my job), since all our programs are cancelled. My job is the main way I do something that helps people in need in a direct way. My volunteer work as a member of a board of directors is also important, and I appreciate it, but a bit more removed, a bit more big-picture.
I was not surprised that social media pages and groups were set up to help people in an efficient way. Facebook groups specific to COVID-19 that enabled the average person to have a direct way to help with advice, positive commentary on social media, and buying items online to help those with emergent need. For a Facebook page that is just barely a month old, to have 20,000 members, is pretty darn impressive. I wanna buy a case of wine for each of the founders and moderators of the page. What an incredible labour of love.
Another way I have been helping is by being in “super seamstress mode”. Since last year I’ve been making fabric bags for Boomerang Bags Edmonton, and that has proven useful during this time. Hundreds of people throughout the province started making fabric laundry bags for healthcare workers, so they can separate their dirty (and most likely contaminated) work uniforms and toss them right away into the washing machine.
In my neighbourhood, with relief, I discovered ways to do a little something cheerful right by my front yard. Sidewalk chalk art. Staying connected with community leaders. Volunteering from home.
For my workplace, I realized that disseminating information, especially online, is really important. It’s part of my duties anyways. Handling marketing and communications for work and the clients we serve who need help is a part of my daily duties as I work from home.
These are the “doer” type of roles. The soldiers in the field. The cog in the machine. I know there are hundreds of volunteers doing seamstress work right now. I know (and it’s incredible) that there are thousands of people on the Facebook group, that almost every single time someone make a post asking for help, an offer is made within an hour or less. I am seeing dozens of photos drawing positive messages of pavement or fences, even if there’s a risk of snowfall or watery puddles the next day that would wash it away.
I’d like to take a moment to give a shoutout to all the administrators, organizers, facilitators of these on-the-ground initiatives to help others. Because it’s more stressful to do it at this time, but the relieve that these gestures of support is also of a greater impact.
Through my volunteering at the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, I obtained a copy of a book that talks about the concept of community leagues and its impact in Edmonton, named Edmonton’s Urban Villages, written by Ron Kuban. This is a review of the book.
A Comprehensive and Digestible Overview of this City’s History
A city that existed for over a hundred years has a fairly lengthy history, one that would have pretty decent documentation as well. It is safe to say that the volume of information can be overwhelming, particularly for someone like myself who doesn’t describe themselves as a ‘history buff’. What I appreciate about this book is in its pages, combined with narrations, photos obtained from archives of the organization and from the city, the book is a neatly organized overview of the city’s history that is easy to read.
I have heard about how the city evolved, how it expanded and merged with neighbouring towns, how roadways are planned and utilities are managed, how recessions and wars impacted the economy and day-to-day living. Though other events or forms of media, I learned about the different social, political and economic eras that our city had, and I appreciated how it was presented in the book.
Community Leagues and EFCL had been an incubator of many initiatives that flourished into independent organizations. When I encounter city-wide organizations that focus on a particular activity, like soccer or hockey, I am now more likely to probe on whether this is something that the community league movement had initiated on a neighbourhood level.
Familiar Names and Places Given Deeper Context and Appreciation
People whose names I see in street signs, news articles, historical videos and hall of fame galleries popped up numerous times in all the book’s pages, which for me is quite delightful. As I personally never had a formal class about Edmonton’s history, opportunities like this book, which is a light read, is a chance to understand who, when and what happened at certain times. Some of the names in the book were individuals I have met in person recently, and it’s incredible to witness what they have accomplished in decades past, that is impactful enough to be documented in such a fashion.
From war veterans to business owners, from politicians to women to broke the glass ceiling in their own right, witnessing how they did their part to make an impact at a local level (the neighbourhood level) is valuable in knowing why our city works the way it is now. The events were not always pleasant, and even the people were far from perfect. The chapters talked about differing views, burnout, conflict, and missed opportunities to work together, but there seems to always be a positive turn of events afterwards.
Motivation for Greater Involvement in the Community
My community involvement has a slightly selfish goal, to address my level of disconnectedness from not being born-and-raised here. At the same time, I feel deep meaning in making a contribution of my time and energy to the community at large. My personal involvement with community leagues is fairly recent, just when we moved to our house about five years ago. Learning about the concept of community leagues, an idea that originated in the US that had a Canadian and Edmonton-based modifications to it is quite remarkable.
I understand and appreciate better the idea that there are different levels of involvement: from the volunteer who comes at events to help set up and take down the furniture at the hall, the volunteer who tracks the mail for the organization and pays the utilities, the one who helps with fundraising and financial grant applications, the big-picture people who helps with decisions and bylaws, and more. The book repeatedly talked about the “unnamed volunteers”, thousands of them, that are the real heroes of this movement. I hope to do the same in my own way.
100th Anniversary of the Featured Organization
2021 is a significant year, as it is the 100th anniversary of the organization featured in the book, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. There has been some projects that are in progress to memorialize this milestone. Discovering this book could not have come at a better time. An update of this book as it written in 2005, is a great idea for sure, since the past 15 years had made a lot of changes in Edmonton and how people and communities function.
Many years ago, while searching for jobs not too long after finishing university, I stumbled upon a few articles online that encouraged the reader to ask this question:
“If money is not an issue, what job would you like to have?”
At that time, I answered “volunteer”. And it seems like that indeed had led me to a role that suited my skills and interests, and is quite rewarding. As a Volunteer Coordinator of a nonprofit, I have learned to appreciate the value of having the structure that enables the volunteers to focus on what they do best at their designated role, and not to worry about small details that can delay or distract them.
Lately, I have been thinking of what the future holds given that I am still considered a young professional. After all, I’m a few years away before turning 30. Retirement feels like a long time away, despite the fact that my husband diligently prepares for it through our regular savings and keeping our accounts organized.
We have a lottery pool at work, where each staff member who wants to participate can pitch in $2, a staff person goes to buy a ticket, and hope that we are the next group of employees who win a few million dollars, like the ones we hear about in the news.
I remember a comment from a former colleague Sofia about lottery winnings that stuck with me. She said “imagine how much affordable housing you can build out of all that money.” I appreciate her viewpoint since it was the first time I hear from anybody about a way to spread the winnings to those in need. Another colleague had said, with a hint of worry “I wouldn’t know what to do with all the much money.” This is also a fair point, as I heard numerous stories of people’s lives turning for the worst after winning the lottery. The troubles that the winners have come in two ways, from being reckless about spending, and from being bombarded with inappropriate request for money from distant relatives to random strangers. I guess, with great wealth comes a great burden.
Right now, if money is not an issue because somehow I have large sums of it or an unlimited supply, I imagine that I will split the money into a few different categories:
Personal financial stability
Assisting relatives in need, both in this country and overseas
Local charitable donations
Large-scale impact on certain social causes
For example, I’ll pay off our home’s mortgage and set aside enough money for an investment fund where the interest is enough to cover current expenses and occasional luxuries. And then, I’d like to find a way to provide financial assistance to my relatives in need in a way that is sustainable and has a long-term benefit: whether it is funds to start a business, house and lot, or covering tuition payment for younger kids.
Outside of the family unit, here’s how I envision huge sums of money can make an impact. There are many charitable organizations that struggle to stay afloat, and as a result, searching for funding eats up precious time that could have been spent making a difference through their programs and services. Providing stability such as through an endowment fund or a financial boost for a few years would be a good thing, I think. And then, similar to those lottery winners who would donate millions of dollars towards a cause, I’d like to do the same thing as well. Instead of just dropping a cheque though, I’d like to help build something from the ground up. Maybe a new building to expand an organization’s service and operations, or even a brand new facility to fill an unmet need.
One can dream, right? But, since the chances of winning the lottery or having a massive multi-million dollar business empire is pretty small, the realistic, real-time version of myself had scaled back these lofty dreams into manageable, small things that can be done in present time. With the income from my paycheque, helping charities and relatives and building a sense of personal financial stability is achievable in small chunks. As far as making a large-scale impact, I’m hoping that running for public office one day can fulfill that.
Either on my own, or through in-person and online workshops, I have participated in exercises to help envision the future. It’s a good opportunity to evaluate one’s preferences and aspirations, and indulge in thinking about how outlandish scenarios might just come true. The plan is to ask again this question when I officially turn 30 and periodically in the future.
There was a catchy Filipino pop song that I remember in my teens, titled “Ambisyoso” which is the translation for ‘ambitious’. Some of the writer’s outlandish dreams are pretty funny, like a kissing scene with his favourite actress, but I really like the line that talked about “a wallet that never runs out of money”. That’s what prompted this thought exercise, and I’ll likely revisit it again.
For anyone under the age of 30, particularly adults, 10 years is a sizable amount of time. For me, it’s 35% of my life! The other interesting part is, as opposed to our childhood and teenage years, young adults are likely to remember most, it not all of events that would be considered as pretty major.
This is a short summary of how the age 19-28 has been for me, as in the year 2010-2019.
Dating: I took a chance to date my ex-boyfriend’s friend, with two important premises: that us dating will not jeopardize his friendship with said ex-boyfriend, and that we’ll take it slow in our early years. That seems to have paid off! We are got married in the fall of 2019, after I took the courage (as the woman) to propose, and pulled off a lovely intimate wedding with only two months of planning. This relationship has been the most transformative in my life, where I learned how to be happy and healthy, to love and be loved, and how finding your partner is an experience that pushes you to grow and keeps you stable and safe.
Brother: The past decade started with making arrangements for my brother’s sponsorship and immigrating to Canada. He successfully arrived and I did my best (I hope) to support and guide him in adjusting and living a good life here. He just completed his diploma program at NAIT, while being relatively healthy, in a loving relationship, having a decent work ethic and also debt-free. It brings me the greatest joy that he and my husband get along really well. Being a mother/father/sister to him since we were orphans was no easy feat, but I’m satisfied with how he is doing and how my contributions played a role in its own way.
Home: Home is where the heart is, a place of rest, self-expression, recreation, stability, peace and vulnerability. It has not been straightforward, but the past decade has enabled me to have an active role in defining and shaping what this means for me and my love ones. It involved a few move-outs and move-ins, budgeting, repairing and organizing, getting comfortable making sure that the home fits my sense of self and my current needs. That is actually the toughest part, to give myself permission to tell myself “yes, this is MY home now, this is my home TOO.” Thankfully, I think I finally reached that stage.
Health: Physical activity and diet is something I haven’t paid any attention to until about 2012. It’s been a roller coaster on this one. I went through phases of having an extreme and unhealthy attitude towards tracking calories and physical activity that swung like a pendulum over several years. It is a relief to eventually reaching a more balanced approach. “Slow and steady wins the race” is the most important lesson on this journey and the fact that it is a lifelong one. Some physical ailments and a few medical procedures also took place, and as someone who felt ‘undeserving’ to get checked over by medical professionals, both due to cost and lack of attention by my legal guardians, obtaining the procedures is another significantly positive milestone.
Overcoming Trauma: I learned how to say the word ‘emotional baggage‘ without sarcasm or shame, as well as the word ‘triggered‘ in an honest and kind way. Thanks to the #MeToo movement and the other goals I was working on, I realize that I cannot move forward without addressing these. I sought out therapy for sexual assault around 2017 and I feel that I learned and transformed internally so much. I’m working on being more aware of the concept of Survivor’s Guilt, and how that can push people like me to overwork, overcompensate and be a perfectionist. I experienced burnout at work at least once and felt victorious after feeling vulnerable and courageous enough to seek therapy and actually use my work benefits. Mental and emotional health, as it turns out, is really important, in order to live an enriching life and be a positive impact to the world.
Career: In the beginning of the past decade, I was midway through my university degree, and after just a few years, I completed my degree, gained skills and discovered the current career sector that fits well at the moment. The biggest lesson for me is that in this day and age, there is no need to pick a career that I’m stuck with for the rest of my life, and this fluidity was both comforting and empowering. Also, I had a few young professional milestones such as quitting a toxic work environment, job promotions, raises, plus typical office changes like moving locations and growth in staff.
Creativity: Because of never receiving recognition in school about my artwork, as a child I though I was not artistic at all. My handwriting is nowhere as pretty as my parents, particularly my mother, who was the creative one in the family. But in the past decade, I eventually discovered the enjoyment of artistic expression in my own way, from words such as blogs and articles, upcycling, mending or re-making clothing and abstract art. Now, the decorations in my home and my personal office is 90% artwork I made. Many of our practical items are also DIY, from blankets, quits, pillows and some clothing as well. I appreciate how my husband describes them, as items “made with love”. I plan to continue to integrate this in my life for as long as I can.
Re-Connecting to my Cultural Heritage After Immigrating: Having the chance to visit the Philippines twice after immigrating was wonderful, both instances with my spouse who is not Filipino. Those were useful opportunities to sort important legal and financial matters, and retrieve a few things I didn’t get a chance to bring when I moved the first time. It also prompted within me an ongoing thought exercise on how I ought to fit or maintain, the Filipino side of my identity as I continue my life in Canada. I think that’s part of what prompted this blog in the first place. Discovering local Philippine-focused nonprofit organizations here in Edmonton is a huge help as well and I’m positive that my involvement will only grow in the future. Sharing my ‘coming to Canada’ story to the broader community was a great experience as well.
Self Love and Acceptance: Self-compassion is something I fortunately gained from a healthy workplace and a healthy romantic relationship, and with the explosion of educational tools and advocacy I discovered on social media. While the real change has to be internal and IRL (in real life), as a millenial, social media plays a huge role in making awkward conversations more comfortable. When used positively, the anonymity or the distance created from social media accounts can help people explore painful topics and also offer help. I’d say the past five years was when this exponentially increased in my life, and I was able to curate online communities to help me with this challenging and important journey. Now, I hope to maintain what I have achieved and pay it forward to others who are still starting their journey.
Contributing to the Community At Large: Volunteering in many capacities just enriched my like in a multitude of ways. My goal is to have an optimal combination of activities where my role ranges from being a leader, an equal member, a contributor, or a participant. I think, that is what I have right now. The increase in stability in my home, work and paycheque was also empowering, as I was able to share not only my time, but also my money to those who are in need. The new decade will start with getting more politically active, and diving in deep by possibly running for public office and making an impact. Even as a child, being a trailblazer held a particularly strong appeal. I hope that the past decade helped me gain the skills and gumption to pursue these ambitious goals, and that this decade will be game time, to make attempts at these goals. One thing I’m very sure of, is the comforting truth in the saying ‘when one door closes, another one opens’.
My significant other is born-and-raised in this city we call home. He hasn’t experienced living anywhere else, not counting the times he had to go out of town for work, his travels, or when he came with me to visit and tour the Philippines. Staying in those places are temporary and that was very clear, and at the end of that short timeframe, it will lead to going home again to Edmonton.
While in my case, I grew up in a small mining village in the Philippines, and even continued to live there after my parents and sister passed away. It was unexpected circumstances that prompted me to move to the nearby city to finish high school, and then I was told I’m moving to another part of the world. When I came to Canada, I thought that I will be able to build relationships and set roots in St. Catharines, Ontario, when an abrupt move to Edmonton changed things again.
We had conversations about our future. and it is established that we will be in Edmonton for the rest of our lives. This is not something I wasn’t “over the moon” about exactly, but I’m not actively opposed to it either. It is a good city to live in, with decent opportunities and ways to have an enjoyable life, and I get the benefit of being with people who have lived here for much longer than me. I know that for some couples, location and mobility are key factors in their relationship, and I’m more than happy to be swayed by his desire to build roots here, or in his case, keep and grow the ones he already had.
I guess it is good to do things from a place of love. Because I associate my spouse as being part of this city, I feel more inclined to actively love and care for this place as well.
I told him, if we are going to live here forever, might as well do something to make improvements or keep the good things as they are. In my younger years, getting involved in clubs is something I always enjoy. It is pretty rewarding to be part of a group, with a positive and productive goal, even if it sucks up part of one’s spare time. Turns out, finding ways to do community service here is very easy, given that there are lots of choices. In fact, it can be too easy to get overwhelmed!
That is what inspired me to volunteer for the community league. It is pretty neat that there is a formal organization, that has a structure, funding mechanisms and established processes, for people whose affiliation is just one thing: that they live near each other and want to do good things for their neighbours. It has been three years since I started volunteering, and my spouse and I have a specific tasks that we diligently fulfill.
That is what motivated me to find my happy medium of getting involved in my cultural community, and with the city at large. He knew that writing and journalism is an interest of mine, and he cheered me on when I started writing columns for a provincial cultural newspaper for the Filipino community. He has even helped me with topics or phrasing, when the annoying ‘Writer’s Block’ hits me at unexpected times.
Being conscious of how your significant other navigates your city can encourage you to speak out in ways you haven’t anticipated before. For example, my spouse was very concerned about the changes in the transit system because of how it will affect me, as someone who does not drive. While a typical person who drives might not care as much, he was inspired to answer the online surveys, come with me to the in-person engagement sessions, and half-jokingly asks me whether we should sell the house so I get the same frequent bus access that I currently have.
The River Valley System of Edmonton is a huge part of our relationship. A few of our first dates consisted of walking through these beautiful natural trails. A longer hike is an annual tradition for us. Naturally, when we discovered that there is a formal organization that focuses on preservation of the River Valley, I considered participating. Oh, if only I have more hours in the day! Or maybe, there will be an opportunity or schedule when this will work better in the future. For now, when we are wanting a more casual date, we’ll continue to use this network of trails and doing our best to be responsible users of this incredible natural resource. We are subscribed to the newsletter of this conservation society, and we try to keep up to date on relevant news and research.
I guess it is good to do things from a place of love. Because I associate my spouse as being part of this city, I feel more inclined to actively love and care for this place as well. I hope that more people feel the same way about where they are living right now.
This article was also submitted by the author as a contribution to the Alberta Filipino Journal (a cultural/ community newspaper in the province of Alberta, Canada) in March 2018
Family violence is defined as the abuse of power within
relationships of family, trust or dependency that endangers the survival,
security or well-being of another person. It takes many forms including
intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, child sexual
abuse, parent abuse, elder abuse and neglect, and witnessing the abuse of
others in the family. Family violence may include some or all of the following
behaviours: physical abuse; psychological abuse; criminal harassment/stalking; verbal
and emotional abuse; sexual violence and abuse; financial abuse; and spiritual
The definition above is taken from the report called Family
Violence Hurts Everyone, a Framework to End Family Violence in Alberta
This is a range of resources that can serve as a starting
point when faced with this situation.
to Educate: It can be confusing sometimes to understand what is happening
or how to describe it. These are online resources to browse and learn more
about the situation that you may be facing before taking steps.
Violence Shelters: These can be a starting point in searching for a shelter
to go to. Different shelters have different levels of service. While some cater
exclusively to women, some can help men or cater to specific demographics.
The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters has an
interactive map that lists all shelters in Alberta at https://acws.ca/shelters
You can call at 1-866-331-3933
Sage Seniors Association is an organization in
Edmonton that helps men and women aged 60 and older. You can contact them at
780-702-1520 or http://www.mysage.ca
Abuse/ Dealing with Financial Aftermath of Fleeing from Family Violence: Leaving
an abusive relationship can mean your source of money for daily living will not
longer be available. Some programs and
resources to help with the financial hardship after fleeing abuse are:
Alberta Works: Supports for Albertans Fleeing
Abuse is a program that can provide a wide variety of supports such as funds to
relocate, basic needs, and more. Call 1-866-644-9992 on weekdays,
1-866-644-5135 on weekends or get information online at http://www.albertasupports.ca
You can apply for Child Support and Spousal
Support through the courts. Contact the Government of Alberta’s Resolution and
Court Administration Services at 1-855-738-4747 or visit www.rcas.alberta.ca for help, especially
if you cannot afford a lawyer.
Counseling for Healing Psychologically: Healing from the pain of family
violence can be difficult and can take a while. These are some resources, both
in person and over the phone.
Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton is an
organization that helps people who have experienced sexual abuse and sexual
assault, which is a typical component of family violence. They serve children
and adults. The services are free, and they can be contacted https://www.sace.ab.ca/ or at 780-423-4102
The Canadian Mental Heath Association has a list
of resources as well for counselling, therapy and support groups. The main
website is https://alberta.cmha.ca/
where you can find the webpage for your city or town. You can also access their
service by dialling 311 or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642
There are specialized programs and services to help children as well. This can
be valuable since children can process trauma differently, given that they are
Kids Help Phone Line is an available resource
for kids and teens to speak to a counsellor. An online chat option is available
at https://kidshelpphone.ca/, through the phone by calling 1-800-668-6868, or
by downloading their app called ‘Always There’, available for Apple and Android
While this list is specific to Edmonton or Alberta, an
online search that includes your location – if it is a more remote one – can
help identify what is available nearby. It is often the case that getting in
touch with social agencies for any purpose, if you mention what else you need
help with, they can direct you to other resources as well. Websites of specific
municipalities also can have a directory of where to get help. Alberta.ca is
also a good resource.
June has been officially declared as Philippine Heritage Month, for Edmonton, the city I live in, the whole province of Alberta, and the country! Events have sprung up that celebrate Philippine culture, providing means to get people to gather together and have fun. Edmonton is known to be a festival city, so it is not surprising that there are different festivities and activities to choose from. Here’s a quick overview of the events I knew about.
Last June 1, there is an indoor parade at Kingsway Mall. The format of the event is very much like the “Flores de Mayo” celebrations in rural towns and villages in the Philippines. “Flores de Mayo” is festival held in the Philippines in the month of May. It is one of the May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lasts for the entire month, and such celebrations are not complete without a parade. For the one that took place here in Edmonton, everyone was invited to attend, wearing their most glamorous attire. After the parade, there was a program with various types of entertainment. According to the Facebook posts, it went well! I was so sad to miss it, and I hope to attend next year
And then, on June 8, there was Philippine Independence Day Celebration gala at River Cree Casino. It was another excuse to look fancy in my traditional Filipiniana attire I purchased a few years ago. I went on behalf of the Alberta Filipino Journal as I am a regular writer for them, and managed to get to know people and mingle. All of these are complemented with a great dinner, amazing performances, and a dance floor where almost everyone participated afterwards.
I literally danced like no one’s watching, in my Filipinana attire and with no dancing partner, it was no big deal. It’s nice to meet more people involved in the community here in Edmonton, especially those who have been here for many years more than me. Stories from the past of previous events and how they have bloomed to what they are today, is incredible to listen to. One thing I realized is that there are many organizations and it’s valuable to keep track of who is a part of which, since there is overlap.
On June 19, at the University of Alberta Myer Horowitz theater, was the film screening of a Filipino American documentary called Ulam:Main Dish. On that day, I had to run back to the house when I realized my tickets were on my desk at home, instead of my bag! The Myer Horowitz Theater is a great venue. It was such a coincidence when I was in New York City a few weeks ago, the restaurant owner of Kabisera said she knows some of the other New York Filipino restaurant owners being featured in the documentary. I really appreciate the panel afterwards, hearing from different Filipino folks in the food industry.
And then on June 22 and 23, there was the weekend long Filipino Fiesta (festival). I’m only able to attend the first day, and made my day more productive by volunteering to make sure that the parade around the park goes smoothly. It was a good decision and I’m so glad I did it.
The performances ranges from different traditional dances, pop and rock bands, a full-hour Zumba session, and some storytelling from long-time organizations in Edmonton and Alberta. It’s incredible to learn about Filipinos who have been here for forty years or more. A well-known musician Yeng Constantino came from the Philippines and performed during the “TFC Hour”. Her songs were an iconic part of my teenage years just slightly more than ten years ago, and my voice was hoarse after fangirling the entire time.
One thing to remember moving forward, is that these gatherings and opportunities are not limited to the month of June. There are numerous groups in Edmonton, some have existed for decades, that serve as great opportunities to meet with like-minded people or maintain one’s interest in an aspect of the Filipino culture. There are arts oriented ones like the Saranay Association of Edmonton, ones based on alma mater affiliation like the University of the Philippines Alumni Association, activity based like the Martial Arts Society and the Pinoy Zumba group or even regional ones like the Batanguenos Association. I hope that all newcomers to the country, or whichever country they end up immigrating to, manage to find the means to stay connected and engaged to their heritage while making a home in this new place.
This article was also submitted by the author as a contribution to the Alberta Filipino Journal (a cultural/ community newspaper in the province of Alberta, Canada) in March 2018
It is unavoidable to have some challenges in life where
legal advice is needed. There are many people, for understandable reasons, that
are unable to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to pay for the full services
from a lawyer or law firm. Here is a list of resources that can help inform or
mitigate the cost of legal services, or to know about the legal issue before
hiring for help.
to Educate: It can be valuable to read these booklets or watch the videos
they offer. The language in these resources are meant for those who are not
lawyers, making it easy to understand. In each website their resources are
sub-categorized into different areas of law.
Centres in the Area, by Independent Charities: These are non-profit
organizations that provide legal help to those who are low-income in the area.
Criteria may vary depending on someone’s financial situation and the area of
law they need help with.
Centres in the Area Ran by Law Schools: The law schools in Edmonton and
Calgary also offer legal services, that are ran by law students. These services
are for also for those who cannot afford legal help.
Alberta: Legal Aid is a province-wide program that helps eligible Albertans
with different areas of law such as serious criminal charges, family law, child
welfare, and more. Their website is www.legalaid.ab.ca
Limited Legal Services Project: For those that may be able to afford some
of fees that a lawyer would charge but not the whole amount all at once, this
is a service where a lawyer can be hired on a limited scope. The website is: albertalegalservices.com/
If someone is needing legal help but lives in a more remote
area like a small town, it is worthwhile to contact the nearest organization
geographically. There may be other services that are also available right at
the courthouse as well. Hopefully this is a valuable starting point in
resolving one’s legal issues while considering financial limitations.
When people are being asked to be an ally, based on what I have seen, it is usually in terms of these two:
asking men to support women in their fight for equality
asking straight people to support the LGBTQPIA2+ community
Being an ally resonates with me, perhaps due to my inclination to be helpful in whichever way I can.
The more I learn about the different ways that people are marginalized, the more I feel motivated to figure out how to do my part. Interestingly enough, in some ways I actually fall under some of these categories. If I would list a few, I am:
A woman of colour
But at the same time, I fall under many categories of privilege, of being in the ‘majority’ so to speak. If I would list a few, I am:
Straight and cisgender (and I look the part)
Educated and literate
Able-bodied and neurotypical
An immigrant (because in some instances, Indigenous people have more challenges that I don’t necessarily face)
So, what does being an ally look like for me, especially here in Edmonton? Here is how I do it.
It can be as simple as reading stories and news articles in my own time. I see the point in discouraging those who are already marginalized to explain themselves over and over about the hardships they face. Placing this burden on them can be quite re-traumatizing.
The Power of Social Media
I have curated my social media to help me be more informed and aware. A few recommendations I have are below. And many of these are local content which helps me understand contexts of what is going on around me.
From therapy, I was encouraged to be compassionate towards myself. I think it ended up being an ongoing positive cycle. That encouraging myself to care for myself as much as I care for others, resulted into being more caring towards others, especially those whose hardships I don’t (and will never completely) understand.
The next in my to-do list in the journey is understanding and applying practically what it means to stand in solidarity. I think when it comes to making positive change happen, there will be times when I will have to ask other groups to stand in solidarity with me, and that I will stand in solidarity as other groups fight their battles. I’m sure that there will be lots of opportunities to do either, which I’m looking forward to.
What does it entail? Are you expected to hustle and use your skill at poker to win a jackpot? Are you required to be lucky or know how to place your bets wisely on the roulette table, and the funds go towards the charity of your choice?
That’s not the case at all.
The simplest way for me to describe it is:
A charitable organization is provided two days to provide volunteers.
These volunteers are essentially “free labour” doing various tasks such as cashier, transporting gambling chips to the gaming tables, data entry, and counting money at the end of the day.
Many organizations do this, from nonprofit service agencies, community leagues, children’s dance groups, sports teams, etc.
Why should you do it?
It’s an easy way to volunteer that gives that organization a sizeable amount of money. Last I heard, about $70,000 – 8$0,000 is what the organization receives. Add a few grant applications and that can go a really long way to keeping that organization running and fulfilling their purpose.
Organizations do this only once every two years. If you are too busy with other day-to-day activities, this is a great way to contribute in an impactful way. Essentially about 38 spots need to be filled, divide that by $80,000, you are providing help with an estimated value of $2,000. Some organizations make the volunteer shifts shorter which means more people at needed.
It’s a great way to do other tasks, especially if you are doing a quiet role like the chip runner. Did you know drafted a huge chunk of my first mini e-book while volunteering for a casino? As the chip runner, you basically only do the task for ten minutes at a time, while you spend almost an hour in between waiting to be called. I spent a lot of that time writing and thinking.
Many organizations really need help to fill the roles. Casinos run practically all day, so there are volunteer shifts that are all-nighters. We’re talking about 6 PM – 3 AM or 11 PM – 3 AM. There are also times when the casino happens during a work week. For any students, retired people, those with flexible hours, or just anyone who don’t mind staying up late once in a while, this is a great way to help out. As compensation, you also get one free meal from the restaurant, and casino restaurants usually have decent food!
It requires very little training, the tasks and the rules are pretty simple. For each charitable organization that send a group of volunteers to fulfill their casino volunteering requirements, there is a Casino Manager assigned who will be there along the way. When I volunteered as a cashier, I had to remind myself to lay out the cash one bill at a time so it is seen by the overhead camera properly. As a chip runner, I just need to follow the security staff while holding a container of casino gambling chips. Volunteering as a group in the countroom is quite social while organizing stacks of cash which was the casino earnings from that day.
To learn more about how Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission runs the program, go to the following links: