Volunteering is an easy choice for me. I am fortunate to volunteer as a board member for a few different organizations that help people reach their full potential, no matter where they’re starting. From organizations supporting children to helping people succeed in higher education, I donate and volunteer where I can.
Over the years I have learned that so much of the suffering we see in the world is not a person’s fault—they’re often born into difficult circumstances. I have also learned that I often get more out of the volunteer experience than I contribute.
There are some groups that I work with that deserve public mention, as the work they do is incredibly impactful.
I hold Pacific Clinics’ work so near to my heart. This organization started over 150 years ago as the Ming Quong Home, an orphanage dedicated to caring for neglected and abandoned girls. This history built the foundation for them to grow and morph into the organization they are today, including a merger with Uplift Family Services.
Pre-merger, Uplift Family Services served children and Pacific Clinics served adults. Their union brought the best out of both organizations, allowing them to expand their services and care.
Their many locations now assist 13,000 children and adults and 19,000 family members each year, offering services such as:
- Behavioural health services, including a family resource centre, flexible integrated treatment, mobile crisis services, outpatient counselling, and outpatient mental health services.
- Educational programs, including Head Start, Pacific Clinics Training Institute (PCTI), The Recovery Education Institute (REI), and the School Based Intervention Team (SBIT).
- Social services, including adoption services, foster care services, and the Parent Institute, a safe space for families to learn, grow, and strengthen their family and community.
- Comprehensive support services, including drop-in centres, school and community programs, military services and family support, and a transitional housing program.
I’ve been involved with this organization since the 90s, serving as board chair twice and continuing to be involved as a board member ever since.
*Camp Hollygrove, a therapeutic day camp for children
When I say that a lot of suffering is not a person’s fault, I think about the children involved with Pacific Clinics. Many of the children were often born into unfortunate circumstances, with little to no family or support. Some are in and out of jail or juvenile detention, have grown up in tough situations, and need help to correct the path of their young lives.
Pacific Clinics works with children and adults across all California counties, treating their mental health on their campuses. This organization is giving so many children and families a new place to start off from, and I feel lucky that I have something to contribute to their work.
If you have additional interest, get to know the Pacific Clinics here: https://www.pacificclinics.org/
The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is another organization giving children and young adults a new outlook on life. The founder of this project was moved by the need to provide young girls (aged 14-19) a safe and therapeutic space to heal from sex trafficking trauma they’ve survived
The Refuge Ranch opened in 2018 in Texas in response to the rampant issue of sex trafficking at the Texas/Mexico border. In fact, a staggering almost 79,000 minors and youth are victims of sex trafficking today.
The ranch was built to address the growing need for a healing space. Theirs is a right place, right time story.
The 50 acre space offers the young women in their care opportunities such as:
- Psychiatric services through Dell Medical School at the University of Texas
- Medical services as provided by community partners
- Education through the University of Texas Charter School
- Other therapeutic services designed specifically for survivors of abuse, including:
- Medical/physical treatment
- Spiritual guidance
- Educational opportunities
- Psychological care
- Social and relational opportunities
- Independent living and job skills
- Community, family, and relative connections
This project was started by a friend of mine, and I’m so happy to be a strong supporter of their work. They are really making a difference in the lives of young women. For more information, head here: https://therefugedmst.org/?form=givehope
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
I’ve served on the board for Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) in the past, and what a wonderful opportunity it was to support one of my favorite communities. ACES serves Aspen and the surrounding area with locations at Hallam Lake, Rock Bottom Ranch, and the Catto Center at Toklat. Hallam Lake is an educational and community space where school classes and guests can go to learn about the environmental issues Aspen faces. It’s also a space for young professionals to start their careers in environmental fields.
This community-driven organization gets visitors’ hands dirty with interactive lessons on geology, harvesting your own food, and more. They also offer seasonal activities, all with the goal of giving their guests a fun, educational experience. Right now, they’re offering egg collection, birding, hayrides, picnics, summer camps, painting classes, hiking, forest restoration projects and more.
It feels great to be able to give back to this community I’m so fond of with this incredible environmentally-minded organization.
Aspen Fire Protection District
Community Wildfire Resilience is an initiative organized by the Aspen Fire Protection District. The goal of this program is to put a focus on wildfire mitigation, improved forest health, and fuels reduction for Aspen. This program was launched to see if wildfire mitigation could even be done in their community. Now, after 1.5 years, they’re finding it to be a great success so far. The project has moved from its pilot program phase to a long-term commitment from the fire department!
In this short time, the Community Wildfire Resilience program has:
- Launched a fund to facilitate community mitigation and risk reduction programs
- Organized two prescribed fires to help return the forest back to its natural state
- Partnered with the city, county, forest service and ACES on bark beetle treatments
- Put on education events open to the community
- Facilitated a chainsaw training from certified wildland firefighters, giving more people in the community the skills to prevent and fight wildfires
- Started a “chipper” program where the Aspen fire department will haul brush away if people cut and stack it from their yards
In addition, this team is working on creating a cross boundary fuel break in a critical pinch point. With the help of a BLM grant, this project will encourage the health and safety of the ecosystem and the people in this area.
Aspen Fire also provides no-cost wildfire risk assessments and wildfire mapping, including assessing the risk of structures and the natural area.
They also run outreach events for the entire state of Colorado on subjects such as fire hazards, and they are raising funds to protect and plan for wildfires in Aspen.
From experiment to great success, the Community Wildfire Resilience program is making a notable difference in their high-risk community. I have supported this cause right from the beginning because I believe strongly in preserving the nature of this incredible community.
Supporting Higher Education
Higher education is important to my family and me. My children support their alma maters, and I support the University of Washington through our family foundation.
I have taught a class, CEO and Board Leadership – Governance, for second year MBAs at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business for several years. Watching the students achieve their academic goals and mentoring people as they plan their futures is incredibly rewarding for me. I also provide scholarships for students, student athletes, and young assistant professors at the University of Washington.
Sometimes I’ll grab coffee with a few students. It is such a privilege to offer them guidance and advice based on my own experiences. Besides, I always savour the opportunity to share some of my best stories with a new audience!
From teaching to serving on boards to mentoring to donating, I am “all in” when it comes to giving back. To live a full life, I encourage you to share your time, knowledge or financial resources with a cause that you care about. I think you will find that you get more than you give.