Union Gospel Mission
Every year, kind hearted donors, like you, provide a life-changing week of summer camp to hundreds of children through Union Gospel Mission’s camp sponsorship program. This week away gives kids in our province, who face violence, poverty, and hunger every day, an opportunity to just be a kid, connect with positive role models, and start to build dreams for their future.
At the end of the summer, thank you cards pour in along with many touching stories. Their notes are a testimony that camp is much more than just a good time – it is an opportunity to flourish within a healthy environment, and build deep and lasting connections.
One father shares, “My son has learned great leadership qualities and team building, his goal is to become a camp leader one day, and without your help, this would not have been possible. Camp brings out the lightheartedness in him, which he truly deserves.”
In addition to sending hundreds of kids to camp, UGM’s sponsorship program also provides single mothers with an opportunity to attend Mum ‘n’ Me camp, where they can build deep friendships with other single mothers and spend quality time with their children. Below you’ll read Erin’s inspiring story. She shares, “Camp has been a great source of support. It has shown me, that I’m not alone, and I always leave feeling a sense of direction and purpose.”
UGM also offers a wide range of programs throughout the year, tailored to meet the specific needs of the families and children we serve, including our Eastsiders afterschool program, Christmas hampers, mentorship, and weekly evening youth events. By offering these programs, it is our hope that we provide children and families with the support and care they need to create a healthy, happy life.
Please join us in providing transformative programs to women and children who need it most in our communities. Consider sending a child to camp today, or donate in support of our year-round family programming. Blessings to you this spring. May it be a time of renewal and rest for you and yours.
A mother and daughter spend quality time together at UGM’s annual Easter dinner.
On March 30th, you made it possible to serve 2,721 nutritious Easter meals to men, women, and families in need. Union Gospel Mission’s Vancouver and New Westminster locations were buzzing with activity as kind hearted volunteers and UGM staff prepared to welcome each guest to this special celebration.
Time and time again, members of our community share that they suffer from isolation and loneliness. Our large-scale meals offer people a place where they can break bread with others, and receive care and attention from trained Outreach Workers. “As someone who doesn’t have family to celebrate holidays with, coming to UGM for a meal means the world. The food is always good, but best of all, it’s a time where I know I’m not alone,” shares Rick, a UGM guest.
Enjoying the warm, homey environment, guests were eager to share their appreciation, offering warm smiles and heartfelt thank-yous as they gathered around the table to partake in this Easter feast.
While dining and listening to live music, guests were also able to make meaningful connections with caring Outreach Workers. New relationships were formed, and many people inquired about UGM’s life-changing programs and services, from Shelter, to Alcohol & Drug Recovery, and Education Services. These conversations could lead to someone transforming their life, and it’s all thanks to you.
It is our greatest hope that guests gain the strength needed to take steps towards building a better quality of life. Thank you for joining with UGM this Easter to help men, women and children get the fresh start they are looking for.
A Downtown Eastside community member registers to vote at this year’s provincial election.
One consistent barrier for many people in the Downtown Eastside is a lack of proper identification. Without ID, tasks like finding safe housing, opening a bank account, cashing cheques, or even the most basic right to vote, become nearly impossible. Jeff Baergen, Community Engagement Coordinator at UGM shares, “What may seem like everyday details can become insurmountable obstacles for someone who is operating in survival mode.”
This year, Jeff sat down with Peter Walton, Vancouver Mount Pleasant’s District Electoral Officer for Elections BC, to discuss ways to ensure all those in our city who wish to vote will be able to. Peter shares, “Our main mandate is to allow everybody who is eligible to vote, to vote, and remove as many barriers as possible. In last year’s federal election we were able to get the federal government to recognize hospital bracelets as legitimate ID.”
We need to show the Downtown Eastside community that they’re not forgotten, their vote counts, and they have the same rights as any other citizen in BC.
Out of Jeff and Peter’s conversation came a progressive idea to ask BC’s provincial government to recognize prescription pill bottles as valid ID. The proposal was sent to Elections BC in Victoria and was accepted. “This decision is very good news for homeless voters,” says Peter.
Additionally, UGM installed an ‘Ask Your MLA’ booth, where guests could voice questions and concerns, which were put before the candidates. “I hope people will realize they can participate, and as the years move forward, they know they are valued members of society whose voice should be heard,” says Jeff.
Advanced polls are being offered at UGM’s facility at 361 Heatley Avenue, May 8-11th, which allows more flexibility for someone whose schedule may be dictated by simply trying to survive, day to day. For many people without a fixed address, it may have been many years since they were last able to vote. Anything UGM can do to support this community and remove barriers to voting is an exercise we are pleased to engage in.
Children enjoy singing together during an afternoon at camp.
Erin, and her daughter, Adrian, started attending Keats Camp together when Adrian was just two years old. Over the last five years, she has discovered that camp is a place where kids can take on new challenges, receive encouragement, develop self-confidence, and come to recognize their potential. Erin has loved watching her daughter thrive in the camp environment, and believes these experiences will have a lasting impact.
“Every year is a new adventure and a discovery,” says Erin, “I have watched Adrian challenge herself by trying new things, develop lasting friendships, and become a determined little girl. She adores the counsellors, and especially loves hearing them share about Jesus, and tell personal stories from their lives. Adrian often talks about being a counsellor when she is old enough.”
With a variety of activities and programs offered, Erin and Adrian have many special camp memories. Erin reflects, “The concerts that happen every day and night are energizing and active. We loved going for walks, trying to find deer, or spending time at the beach. There are lots of opportunities to get on the water - canoeing, kayaking, learning to sail - we even saw seals.” Adrian shares her mother’s love for the water, saying “I loved boating. I went in the tube. They teach you hand signals to go faster or slower and sometimes you bounce and fly out of the tube!”
Being in nature, having adventures and experiencing new things, is an incredibly rich and nourishing environment for a child. It is also beneficial for the adults. As a single mother, life can be daunting and overwhelming at times. Over the years, camp has provided Erin with much needed time to rest, reflect, connect, and receive personal care. She shares, “Camp has been my place to recharge and get support from other single moms. It has shown me, that I’m not alone, and I always leave feeling a sense of direction and purpose. It has strengthened my relationship with my daughter, and with God.”
Part of parenthood is learning to let go of your children as they grow and begin to develop independence — a task that is often easier said than done. Erin reflects, “My relationship with Adrian has always been very close, and at times it has been hard to let go and watch her grow up. The first year at camp was hard, as I’m used to always being there for my daughter. It is a blessing, though. These years at camp have allowed me to let go little by little, and also embrace the time I have by myself or with the other moms.”
Camp also allows children, and mothers alike, to let go of busy schedules and just relax into the swing of things. “Every year I end up forgetting to wear a watch,” Erin confesses, “everything just fades away as we find our rhythm in nature.”
Both Erin and Adrian cherish the lasting friendships and many incredible memories they’ve built together at camp. Erin’s love for her daughter emanates as she shares her hopes for Adrian’s future, “I want her to feel free to be a kid, and not have to grow up too fast. My long term hopes for her are that I can provide what she needs and be that tower of strength when she needs it. And I also want her to understand her own strength and her relationship with God. I’m doing everything I can to set her up for a strong future.”
A week at summer camp could change a child’s life. By partnering with UGM, you could be offering life-long memories to a child, like Adrian, and a newfound support system to her mother.