Embracing women in the Downtown Eastside

It’s one of Canada’s most well-known neighbourhoods for all the wrong reasons. Some of Canada’s most marginalized and poorest people live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Nearly 40% of those faces are women struggling to raise families and overcome challenges most people can’t fathom, such as physical and sexual abuse, substance use and mental illness.

“Women in the Downtown Eastside need more help. I could have used more help when I was there,” explains Ceejai Julian, a peer specialist in the area. “More resources are needed to help women. I know we can do better.”

That is why Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation joined forces to build a female-focused approach to health care policy, programs and services throughout Vancouver Community Health Services, including launching the first women-only Intensive Case Management Team (ICMT), a program built around women helping women. The interdisciplinary team is designed for women who face high levels of marginalization, are unable to access existing VCH health services, face multiple barriers to care and have substance use and/or mental health challenges. The team will give these women the healthier and happier lives they deserve. The first women-only ICMT is a product of both strong vision and generous philanthropy.

“Risa and I were looking at ways to make a contribution to our community, particularly for vulnerable populations,” says Bill Levine. “We supported the ICMT because it’s an urgent need and vulnerable women will really benefit from these programs. They will get the care they need within their own community, within environments where they are comfortable.”

This is an innovative and high-impact solution to address the disproportionate susceptibility and risks for vulnerable women in Vancouver – it is essentially health care embracing women in the DTES. These vulnerable women are getting what they need, where they live. And visionary philanthropy made it happen.

Young artist exhibition raises thousands of dollars for Art Studios

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation Youth Leadership program members at the Young Artist Exhibiti

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is pleased to announce that its Youth Leadership Program raised $30,000 for Art Studios through the Life of Art Young Artist Exhibition.

On June 3, theLife of Art Exhibitionshowcased works of art created by talented young artists between the ages of 6 and 18 from the Youth Leadership Program, which were featured in a silent and live auction.  Proceeds from the auction will go toArt Studios, a therapeutic art program for people living with mental health illnesses and addiction in Vancouver.

Held every year, the exhibition provides youth with the opportunity to create change and help others, while developing their creative and innovative potential.

About the Youth Leadership Program

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation’s Youth Leadership Program inspires peer to peer contribution to community.  The program empowers youth to take on an active role volunteering through community service and individual and group fundraising efforts. The collective goal of the program is to raise awareness and funds to support health care in BC.

Great Canadian Giving Challenge FAQs

Q: What is the Great Canadian Giving Challenge and how is VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation participating?
The Great Canadian Giving Challenge is a national public contest to benefit any registered Canadian charity. Every dollar donated during June to a registered charity on CanadaHelps is an entry to win a $10,000 donation. The donation is provided by The GIV3 Foundation. VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is raising funds for the Canine Scent Detection Program by participating through this opportunity.

Q: Who is The GIV3 Foundation?
GIV3 is a movement to encourage more Canadians to be more giving. For more information about the program and the Foundation, click here.

Q: I’d love to support Angus and the Canine Scent Detection Program for the Great Canadian Giving Challenge! How do I donate?
Donate here. Every dollar donated is one entry for the $10,000 prize draw.

Q: After my online donation, who issues my tax receipt?
Donors will receive a tax receipt issued by CanadaHelps.

Q: When does the contest take place?
The contest opens from 12 midnight Newfoundland Daylight Time (NDT) on June 1, 2017 and closes at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on June 30, 2017. The grand prize draw is on Canada Day, July 1, 2017 at 11 am EST.

Q: How will the fundraising dollars to Angus and the Canine Scent Detection Program be spent?
Funds raised will go toward a three-year Canine Scent Detection Program that will include the training of a second scent-detection dog that will enable the program to expand to other hospital sites.

Q: I’d like to donate to the Canine Scent Detection Program after June. How do I give online to this specific program?
To donate online specifically to Angus and the Canine Scent Detection Program, please click here.

Q: I’m in love with Angus and this program! How can I raise funds for this cause in my community or at my workplace?
Thanks for your enthusiasm for Angus and his cause! For information on how you can help fundraise in your community for Angus on behalf of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, visit our Plan an Event section or contact Carmen Cheung, Events Coordinator.

Please make a donation today and help us win $10,000.

Support Angus as part of the Great Canadian Giving Challenge

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is a Canadian leader in implementing proven, cutting-edge infection control strategies at hospitals. A recent innovation in health care has been the addition of Angus, Canada’s first certified dog to sniff out C. difficile at VCH. Angus can spot C. difficile in different areas of the hospital and alert staff of infected surfaces that require additional cleaning.

For the month of June, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation has registered Angus’ Canine Scent Detection Program as part of the Great Canadian Giving Challenge.

Every donation made from June 1 – 30, 2017 will go towards an entry to win $10,000 for Angus’ program from the GIV3 Foundation.

Funds raised will help fund a three-year canine scent-detection program, allow for the training of a second scent-detection dog, and will enable the program to expand to other hospital sites.

Help Angus – donate this June.

Please visit our FAQs for more information.


Discover more about Angus:
Man’s best friend, bacteria’s worst enemy: dog sniffs out superbug in Canadian hospital, The Guardian – January 2017

Meet Angus, BC’s first C. difficile sniffing dogGlobal BC, July 2016

Meet Angus, the C. difficile-sniffing dog trained to detect superbugsCBC News BC, July 2016

SB Design Co., Ltd. raises funds for Sheway Program

Canadian company SB Design Co., Ltd. is partnering with VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation to raise funds for Sheway, a pregnancy outreach program located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

SB Design Co., Ltd. will donate $1 for every Frenew pregnancy body pillow sold through authorized retailers to Sheway. “Our body pillows provide great comfort and durability during and after a women’s pregnancy,” said David Kim, Chief Financial Officer for SB Design Co., Ltd. “Fundraising for Sheway is a natural extension of providing support to new mothers and their families.” For a list of authorized retailers, click here.   

Funds raised will support Sheway’s diverse services which include providing basic, practical and nurturing care to its clients and families. Some of their programs include enhancing access to nutritious and fresh foods such as milk and eggs and providing tools to support infants such as strollers. No client is the same and the Sheway team addresses the unique needs of the women and draws on community support to augment its programming.

Me Too Conversations

The statistics are not changing. One in every five Canadian is affected by mental illness and the stigma is as strong as ever. Me Too Conversations brings some of the brightest minds and speakers to the table to open the conversation and smash the stigma. This free six-part speaker series launched in October 2015 and concluded in February 2017. Each unique event highlighted some of the misconceptions around mental illness. The words “Me Too” tells us that we are not alone. It means there are others who empathize, sympathize, support and care for us.

Watch Me Too Conversations Vol 1-6 online

View photos from Me Too Conversations Vol 6.

Additional Resources

Recovery is possible. Want to start taking action now? Download our PDF to join the conversation on mental health and find out where to go for support.

Thank You

Thank you to our audience for joining us in conversation. A special thank you to mental health advocate and philanthropist Andy Szocs who generously funded the Me Too platform to help empower those impacted by mental illness. Me Too Conversations is a collaboration between Andy Szocs, the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, Vancouver Coastal Health, and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

Me Too Advisory Committee Members:

Tina Babuin
Janet Budreski
Sandra Dawson
Ginny Dennehy
Natasha Kolida
Tiffany Kraus
Monica McAlduff
Dr Erin Michalak
Jim O’Hara
Loring Phinney
Michael Schratter
Rebecca Sharma
Andy Szocs
Tracy Windsor

The Impact of Workplace Giving

Longtime Telus Employee, Lakhwir Boparan

Lakhwir Boparan has lived through every mom’s worst nightmare. In 2008, her 28-year-old son was involved in a terrible car accident. On life support and suffering from a traumatic brain injury, doctors thought he might not ever walk again, let alone recover. “It was a long, long road to recovery,” says Lakhwir.

“The doctors and specialists at both VGH and the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre helped save my son’s life. How do you repay someone for that?”

Juggy Sihota-Chahil remembers asking herself a similar question after her active, healthy mom suffered a heart attack five years ago.

“It was the worst moment of my life,” says Juggy. “The experience was traumatic and emotional for our whole family. But slowly Mom got better. We’ll never forget the amazing care she received at VGH.”

Both Lakhwir and Juggy were inspired to pay it back. As it happens, both are proud employees of TELUS in Vancouver. TELUS is committed to giving its employees and retirees a unique and easy way to support their communities and the causes they care about through the company’s workplace giving program. Employees’ charitable donations are automatically deducted through payroll. The best part? When an employee makes a donation, TELUS matches it, doubling the donation’s impact.

For Lakhwir and Juggy, the decision to significantly impact patient care by donating to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation was an easy one. “Because TELUS matches donations,” says Juggy, “I know my gift will have an even bigger impact. It’s a win-win for everyone.”


Sheway is a Pregnancy Outreach Program located in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

Sheway is a pregnancy outreach program located in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, providing health and social services to pregnant women and those with young children. For many, it’s a refuge for women and children struggling to cope with daily existence. However, until recently, Sheway simply didn’t have enough food for everyone.

Nutritious food is critical for ensuring the best outcomes for mother and child in high-risk pregnancies. No one understands that better than the staff at the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation of Canada. That’s why, in 2012, they reached out to help. Thanks to their generous $57,000 donation, all women at Sheway have access to fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and milk for themselves and their families.

Thanks to a donation from the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation of Canada, women at risk have nutritious food to eat.

This gift of food has an even larger impact. Understandably, many of these women are initially reluctant to seek medical care or social services. They usually come from challenging or abusive backgrounds, with little trust in those around them. Providing free groceries helps Sheway develop supportive, trusting relationships with these young mothers, which in turn helps encourage them to access health care and other social services.

On behalf of the women and children who are being fed and cared for, we express our gratitude to the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation of Canada. In addition to their work with Sheway, they consistently demonstrate philanthropic leadership, compassion and care to thousands of people who receive excellent health care at our hospitals and through community services every day.

Sheway, a Vancouver Community Health Services program, provides health and social service supports to women with infants under 18 months and high-risk pregnant women who are dealing with challenges relating to alcohol/drugs, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, HIV, Hepatitis C, poverty and mental health problems.

Before Sheway was launched in 1993, approximately half of the babies in the Downtown Eastside were born substance-affected and one-third had low birth weight. Today most children born to women who have participated in Sheway have normal birth weight, and most new mothers are able to take their children home.