Canadian Web Hosting Blog and News
25Jan/120

How Volunteering at Lunapads Turned Into a Canucks Win

This post isn't exactly about our Canucks winning but please read on, this is about success and community.

Last fall during one of the Social Media Week panels, I had the opportunity to indirectly meet the two co-founders of Lunapads but it wasn’t actually until a few weeks later that we had the chance to bring our initial meetup offline. As previously blogged, meeting offline is important to further relationships with people in our local community. During EastVanLove, one of the two co-founders, Suzanne (on Twitter at @Luna_gal) was able to promote her own fundraiser for their trip to Uganda with a non profit organization called Shanti Uganda (on Twitter at @ShantiUganda). Their offices are next to one another in East Vancouver. Since they needed volunteers and more importantly, since Lunapads reached out directly to me to help the cause, I knew that I could help out. Back in September, they gave their time to share their social media experiences with a room filled with eager individuals from the education to the non profit world, from the finance to the tech industry, and so and so forth. In a way, volunteering for them was a way to say thank you for their own previous contribution that I had the honour to be a part of.

UGANDA_map

Uganda in Africa: the travel destination

From their story page, “Lunapads [on Twitter: @Lunapads] International is a women-owned and operated social mission-based business based in Vancouver, Canada. Our goal is to help individuals have healthier and more positive experiences of their menstrual cycles, and by extension, their bodies overall. Lunapads' mission is to create more positive and informed relationships between menstruators, their bodies and the Earth. We embrace a global perspective, in terms of well-being and empowerment for women and girls, as well as toward our responsibility with respect to sustainability.” Their mission also include: pad donations, mentoring women entrepreneurs in the community, business community support and volunteerism in action.

The evening was fantastic. Everyone started trickling into the red themed office, and mingled over an extensive food spread including various cheeses, crackers, vegetables, several dips, savory and sweet pastries, chocolate and more. They also had different types of wine being poured throughout the event that had been donated. They had a silent auction in one room in which I even won a pair of Canucks tickets thanks to a kind, anonymous donor - that's the Canucks win I was referring about; talk about highlights! About an hour and a half after the start time, we had the chance to listen to both co-owners along with Shanti Uganda talk about their journey from the beginning until now, their trip expectations and goals. All of the speeches were very touching and heartfelt. They both mentioned and knew ahead that this trip would be life changing when they'd get to see their impact first hand.

Lunapads CoFounders

Lunapads co-founders: Suzanne Siemens (back left) & Madeleine Shaw (front right)

One of the most compelling moments of the night was when Madeleine (On Twitter: @Luna_Diva) spoke to the huddle of volunteers before things kicked off and the message was about being open, friendly, owning a sense of respect and common sense but most importantly, she was conveying her own appreciation towards the group giving back. It was exciting to know that through their trip, they’d be able to meet some of those girls and women that they help through their products. Being there reminded me that as a global internet company, we, too, have to appreciate the fact that our own products can reach and impact anyone in the world. It’s great to be aware that we have strong leaders running terrific social enterprises around us and that makes our city of Vancouver BC that much more vibrant.

As companies like Lunapads continue to grow and expand, we’ll be there watching and supporting some of the various organizations around us, as we remind ourselves that each entity is making its own impact. In the end, we also feel the same way about our customer base. We provide that ongoing support continuously to help everyone around us move forward and we help them be successful.

If you’re interested in following their current trip, you can join them on their Facebook page for photos and latest updates. On a final different note, go Canucks go! I had to throw that in.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru

17Jan/120

EastVanLove Brings Community and Non Profit Organizations Together

As a member of the Vancouver community, our team members enjoy taking time to connect with other locals to see what’s happening around town. As of late, one of our current community related endeavours has been to be more in touch with local non profit organizations to find out what they are currently doing and also, where they are going as we continue to grow our own corporate social responsibility efforts. We find that it’s important to be aware of the great work that is happening around us and in some cases, become an ongoing fan and supporter in certain causes like our recent post on our involvement with the Union Gospel Mission.

#EastVanLove Tweetup Poster

Last month, one of the interesting and moving tweetups called EastVanLove (@EastVanLove), hosted by at the Hood (@thehood604), was exactly related to those specific topics: non profit organizations and volunteerism. Each organization spoke about their involvement in the East side of Vancouver, their community building, the positive impact that they strive for, and how the community can get involved. The event itself included some time for networking, a panel that shared highlights about their organizations in a quick five-minute presentations and some time for questions and answers. The diverse line up included the following 6 speakers and to make things easier to connect with them, I added their sites and Twitter handles.

  1. Peter Wrinch (@pwrinch) from Pivot: http://www.pivotlegal.org/ / @pivotlegal
  2. Caroline MacGillivray from Beauty Night Society: http://beautynight.org/ / @beautynight
  3. Dave MacDonald (@davemacdonald) from Reach Multicultural Family Centre: http://www.reachcentre.bc.ca/ / @REACHCHC
  4. Diane Roberts from urban ink productions: http://urbanink.ca/ / @urbaninkVan
  5. Harsha Walia (@HarshaWalia) from DTES Women’s Centre: http://dewc.ca/
  6. Fen Hsiao from Potluck Café: http://potluckcatering.com/ @potluckcafe

Today over lunch, I had the honour and privilege to catch up with Dave MacDonald, from Reach Multicultural Family Centre, to revisit this event and talk in more depth about volunteerism and their current projects. One of his interesting points on volunteerism is that, in his opinion, there are two types of volunteers: 1) those who want to offer their skills or expand their current skills and 2) those who want to do good deeds for the community putting aside the emphasis of any particular skills.

For example, an accountant could decide to help out people by providing free tax help while another volunteer could decide to volunteer for a different project that requires little experience or very little expert skills. Through our conversation, he shared a recent example where a potential volunteer wanted to help out his organization with their own values in mind, however, the skill potentially offered wasn’t what his organization needed at the time. Therefore, what the volunteer could offer and what the organization needed, wasn’t the right fit in the end.

As a prospective volunteer, you must approach any non profit organizations like any other interviews where you might want to do a bit of research ahead of time to find out if your own skills would be something that the organization at hand needs in the first place. You must be able to fill a need and ideally, your own ideas and values will match with theirs.

As a non profit organization, it’s important to understand what current needs are needed, so that when a volunteer comes knocking on your door, you must be ready to communicate what kind of support could be used. From Dave’s point of view, he’s seen over the years that it is sometimes difficult for non profit organizations to turn down volunteers.

The conclusion is that when it comes to volunteering, there needs to be a clear match between what the volunteer can offer and what the non profit organization needs. There are so many great organizations around the Vancouver area and the people in it like Dave make it that much more exciting and vibrant to be a part of our community.

In the future, I’ll continue sharing our own support and involvement with our community and also, how some of our own customers take great pride in doing the same. If you know of any great other non profit organizations whom we should talk to, please leave us a comment below.

You can also read more thoughts on this past event via the Vancouver Observer’s article by Kelly Marion, Stephanie' Chua’s Storify story and/or the picture stream and keep up with the organizers including Ajay Masala Puri (@masalapuri), Kimberley Ong (@kimieong) and Stephanie Chua (@steph_chua) to find out about their upcoming events.

Until then, whether you’re an individual or an organization, you should consider taking some time to give back as much as possible.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru

16Dec/110

Union Gospel Mission: Feeding hope. Changing lives.

Back in March 3, 2009, we published a press release announcing that our company (www.canadianwebhosting.com) donated $5,000 to the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and over two years later, we’re still supporting this wonderful, local, non profit organization. In this article, we take a step back as the year comes to a close. It’s now December and the weather has significantly gotten colder over the past few weeks recently. When the weather drops, it becomes harder and harder for those less fortunate individuals who are on the streets to make it through the winter. We feel fortunate that we have the basic necessities here at home, however, our minds turn towards those who lack those basic needs. UGM is a terrific, resourceful non profit to get involved with. You can also connect with them via Twitter at @ugm, their Facebook page or YouTube.

 

Outside of their new building

About UGM
UGM is an urban relief organization based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With eight locations throughout Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM is positioned to help those who need it most. The heart of the Mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside.

What is the mission of UGM?
Union Gospel Mission is determined to restore the God-given dignity of people by sharing and demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ, providing without discrimination:
- Meals, shelter, outreach and chaplaincy services that relieve suffering and renew hope
- Life recovery programs that offer freedom from addictive lifestyles
- Education and job preparation that equip for successful living
- Affordable housing that fosters community and personal contribution
- Preventative programs that build healthy families

Their slogan is: "Feeding hope. Changing lives."

The other week, we had the opportunity to visit their new facility, have lunch with one of their staff members and learn more about their programs. It's amazing what they do. They start serving meals as early as 6:30 am throughout the day, serving hundreds of meals daily. They have many regular volunteers and also, drop in volunteers. We learned that if you want to volunteer on a longer commitment basis, you'd have to attend a volunteer session. We also had the chance to tour some of their offices, classrooms, their computer labs, and some of their lodging facilities.

Here are some photos from our visit:

The front of the building

One of the posters in the reception area

Lunch offerings

The sign outside

Finally, they just celebrated their 71st Annual Christmas Celebration and you can watch their video:

Union Gospel Mission's 71st Annual Christmas Celebration from Union Gospel Mission.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru

2Dec/110

How Vancouver Entrepreneurs Can Benefit from the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE)

It’s already December which translates into the holiday season! Holidays typically mean spending more time connecting with those around us who matter to you. Why not apply that on a business level where we take more time to connect face-to-face and spend extra time getting to know those in your local community, whether you’re here in Vancouver or elsewhere in the world?

Continuing with our theme of networking offline and building a strong network when being a part of a community, I wanted to highlight one of our wonderful local non profit organizations in Vancouver: Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE). You can follow them on Twitter at @FWEBC. Shortly, after Social Media Week, I organized an informal tweetup and their CEO, Jill Earthy (@jearthy), showed up with Lisa Niemetscheck, Manager of FWE Experience (@LNiemetscheck) and they were both extremely personable and full of information about local small businesses in the area. It was such an honour that they took the time out of their busy day to meet with myself along with Scott Dawson (@sdd).

What is Forum Women Entrepreneur (FWE)?

Right off their site, “Forum for Women Entrepreneurs of British Columbia (FWE) is for all who are entrepreneurially-minded. It is our mission to provide tools, energy, education and support to all women, encouraging them to become wildly successful entrepreneurs. All of our leading-edge professional programs aim to build long-term relationships and foster a strong bond between our members, advisors, speakers and high-calibre members of the business community. Women entrepreneurs and both men and women business professionals who want to support women entrepreneurs can become a member of FWE.”

What are some Benefits to Being Involved?
My next two thoughts are coming from a non-FWE member's perspective at this point in time.

1) Gaining Relevant Knowledge about Key Topics during their Events
I have attended two of their last events. One was called “Women in Politics" which was a nonpartisan event. Some of the community leaders that we heard from were:

  • Suzanne Anton, NPA
  • Elizabeth Ball, NPA
  • Sandra Garossino, Independent
  • Cherie Payne, Vision
  • Andrea Reimer, Vision
  • Ellen Woodsworth, Cope

Here, they covered thoughts on what it was like to be a woman in politics, the challenges and benefits of being in these highly visible roles, and especially the role of leadership. One of the most relevant topics when you listen to a group of politicians is that you really gain a strong sense of what is really happening within your local communities including the public challenges that citizens are trying to resolve and the solutions that they’re bringing forth to solve those problems. These individuals are some of the most connected people to get to know. Everything is relevant and everything is key. No one was promoting their own parties instead they were sharing their personal stories with us. From an individual standpoint, you get to learn the hardships that others have gone through and it makes you appreciate progress as a whole and perhaps, in your own endeavours, whether they are professional or personal.

2) Connecting and Expanding your Own Understanding about Local Businesses
The very latest event was called “Virtually Possible: How to Monetize Online Platforms & Platforms & Boost ROI.” The moderator, panelists and sponsor representatives included:

Here, this type of event brings various small business owners from around town to connect with. There was a Q&A panel that covered answers regarding how to drive online traffic to your sites, SEO and online content, and online reputation. Afterwards, we were broken in different rooms for a roundtable discussion with one of the panelists. This was a great opportunity to learn more other local businesses that you may not have heard of otherwise.

Closing Thoughts
If you are in the Vancouver area and looking for new business connections, or simply want to expand your professional knowledge, I would recommend that you get involved with the FWE. You will gain something out of this depending on your purposes. Most of their events are in the evenings and they usually include some small bites, coffee and even some great wine. You may even make new friend connections there too. It’s all about putting your business out there and building relationships in the process. We have a fantastic entrepreneurship community here and this non profit organization has been supporting our community successfully since 2002. Check them out and get involved.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru

1Nov/110

Let’s Bring GiveCamp (@GiveCamp) to Canada!

I was tweeting with a fellow Vancouverite about an annual weekend-long volunteering event called Givecamp that occurs internationally over 15 cities. This year, the event occurred during October 21-23rd. You can follow the latest news and updates on Twitter at @GiveCamp.

What is GiveCamp?

Here's an overview of what this organization accomplishes: "GiveCamp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations. This custom software could be a new website for the nonprofit organization, a small data-collection application to keep track of members, or a application for the Red Cross that automatically emails a blood donor three months after they’ve donated blood to remind them that they are now eligible to donate again. The only limitation is that the project should be scoped to be able to be completed in a weekend."

Who should care about this event?
If you are a software developer, designer, database administrator, a project manager or even a social media consultant, you could donate some of your time for a cause that you believe in. Every event is run slightly differently, however, I was able to attend the closest one in the Pacific Northwest at the Seattle GiveCamp (@seattlegivecamp). The first night on Friday, as a volunteer, you had the chance to listen to 17 non profits go over their missions and their needs. For example, a lot of them needed website redesign, one wanted a social gaming app (one of the most rigorous project requiring the biggest team), others needed e-commerce tools added on, and some even needed some social media marketing support. The non profits ranged from health to food, from music to books and it went on. As unique as each individual is, there was a cause for everyone.

More on the agenda and event format
In the following two days, some volunteers taught some workshops throughout the day including: WordPress 101, Social Media 101 for Non Profits (which yours truly co-taught), SEO 101 for Non Profits, Using Microsoft Access Databases, and Salesforce.com/CRM for Non-Profits. In tandem, the software developers, designers, database administrators, and project managers worked in nearby conference rooms around the clock from Friday at 6 pm through Sunday at 4:30 pm when the project hand-off occured. It was a very long and fulfilling weekend to say the least.

Why should you care?
Around the office, we still talk about community very much, like during Social Media Week Vancouver or during Startup Day, and we feel that it's important to inform the rest of the community of other great events happening "close" by to home. While each of us continues to become busier and busier throughout our days and weeks, it's important to step back and think about non profits and the other organizations who are trying very hard to promote their own communities through sometimes, means that are more difficult than wanted.

Spotlight on Music for Life also known as "The African Childrens Choir."
Dawna, the Donor Relations Coordinator, was on sight and drove all the way down to Seattle from Langley to be part of this weekend. Her project workplan was to re-deploy her website using CMS and while we can all read the WIKI notes, the most amazing part is to view the before-design and most importantly, the amazing after-design work. I had the chance to chat with her about social media and it was very enjoyable to drop some Canucks commentary during my social media workshop with her. Her organization made a great effort to attend, and other volunteers like myself, cared very much to give back some of our time to the community at large. If you are interested in this local organization, you can follow them on Twitter at @acchoir or on Facebook at African Children's Choir.

As that recent conversation over Twitter came up, it would be great if Vancouver could also join this movement next year and be the first GiveCamp in Canada. Why not? On the other hand, which are your favorite non profits to follow and/or be involved with around here?

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru