The United Way UBC Community Campaign seeks to bring aid to over 40,000 people

A Week of Caring kicked off the 2016 United Way UBC Community Campaign on Tuesday, October 11. A series of five events running until October 14 composed the first campaign event to take place on UBC’s Vancouver campus.

Students, staff and faculty members of all departments were encouraged to partake in any of the events, which included a pancake flipping race on Tuesday and a food truck festival on Thursday.

According to a press release published by the United Way, the UBC community has raised over $500,000 since 2009 through its annual campaigning and UBC doesn’t seem to be in a position to lose its place as the organization’s top contributor anytime soon.

This year’s edition of the campaign — which ends on December 23 — hopes to help 40,000 people in the local community, up from 36,000 in 2015.

But while the numbers are already impressive, money isn’t the only thing the campaign hopes to raise. Now in its 40th year, the United Way’s organizing team is looking to further educate the UBC community at large, which starts with getting busy students involved.

“A primary objective of the [United Way UBC Community Campaign] student committee … is really finding a way to engage students and to empower students to really understand the value of volunteering,” said Thalia Lang, a third-year arts student and member of the campaign's student committee. “[If] you donate an hour of your time, you’re investing in the community, but you’re also investing in yourself.”

The United Way faces similar challenges in getting time-constrained departments “to come together for one cause,” said Samson Song, a fourth-year arts student and United Way campaign associate. Song is focusing on building department-specific reports to “break down each department’s contributions in terms of how many people they’ve helped.”

“Giving money is one thing — you know, ‘Oh, we raised X amount of dollars’ and what not — but you don’t really know what that means,” said Song. “So having those specific reports hopefully will boost morale and increase participation.”

In addition to the events and engagement strategies being planned, the United Way is also hoping to use A Week of Caring to solidify donating as a regular occurrence among UBC staff and faculty members through its Payroll Pledge program, whereby employees select a certain amount to be automatically donated to the United Way from each paycheck.

“You could make a $5 per paycheck donation … and then that donation can help students at after school programs,” said Jodi Scott, campaign co-chair and personal supporter of the United Way. “There’s all of those kinds of things that make a huge difference if you’re just making a regular donation.”

For students and staff who aren’t able to commit to a regular donation, Lang stressed the important role the campaign will play in bringing general awareness to the orgaization’s work in local communities and for engaging students to donate their time instead.

“[It’s] kind of paradoxical where we have logos everywhere,” said Lang. “[But] it’s all about starting a conversation and attaching that meaning to what local community means and what United Way does.”

As the campaign prepared its 40th launch on October 11 with “remarkable” support from UBC’s administration, Song noted that getting the word out to a large campus remains the main challenge that the campaign team is preparing to meet.

“UBC is such a large and vast community, it’s hard to really get a sense of that belonging,” said Song. “We can all come together for one good cause and really strengthen the community through that.”