An Op-Ed by Kahir Lalji, Executive Director of United Way SIBC
In the face of uncertainty, our sector rallied together to support our community.
10 months into the pandemic, I recently took some time to reflect on how, among others, thousands of non-profit agencies in the social and community service sector stepped up to tirelessly support the urgent and increased needs of the most vulnerable in our community. Since the onset of the pandemic, the sector faced (and continues to face) the combined effects of increased demands for its services, and having to manage professional and personal lives in a world where the non-profit sector, perhaps has been traditionally under resourced and under recognized for their impactful supports and services.
Some research has indicated that more than 75% of non-profits in British Columbia experienced disruption of services to clients and communities due to the pandemic, and more than half the sector has witnessed an increased demand in services.
I have seen how our sector has helped kids and their families stay healthy and fed. I have seen how our sector has helped agencies keep their essential, non-medical programs safely operating. I have seen how our sector has supported older British Columbians who are lonely. I have seen the important role the sector played in curating and fostering vital connections – seeing local love in action.
Although there is still a lot of work to be done, I am especially heartened to witness our community working together to support each other through the uncertainties of the pandemic. Community is the cornerstone of our social fabric, and we need to continue showing our support for the sector that offers care and protection when anyone of us needs or requires it.
I have seen the coming together of so many supporters and am especially encouraged to see the provincial government’s commitment in supporting BC’s non-profit sector through the appointment of Hon. Niki Sharma as Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits. From my perspective, the appointment of the Parliamentary Secretary is a step towards creating healthy, inclusive and resilient communities – sustained by a well-supported social service sector. We look forward to working with Niki in the coming years ahead.
If this year has taught us anything, it is how vital the front-line non-profits and charities are within the communities in which we live. They inspire action. They create vital connections. They inspire people to serve. When we invest in the non-profit/ social service sector, we invest in the health and wellbeing of community.
Kahir Lalji is the Executive Director of the United Way Southern Interior B.C, and the Provincial Director of Healthy Aging by United Way. He is a gerontologist with a Masters of Gerontology from Simon Fraser University, and serves on the board of HelpAge Canada, BC211 and Destination Imagination.