Kindness Connect: Recipients of YCI’s Global Action Grant Winners Take Website to the Next Level

Jon Burns and Kevan Osmond were selected as winners of YCI’s Global Action Grant for Kindness Connect, a web platform they are creating for volunteers and community organizations alike. Their goal is to remove barriers to volunteering and get more people ‘up on their feet’ doing good work for great organizations.

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Kindness Connect - Jon (left) Kevan (right)

Our Progress
The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity. Building the Kindness Connect web platform has run much like your typical software development project, but with one notable exception. We began with ideas: big ones, little ones, far-fetched ones, and easily attainable ones. With all of the ideas in front of us it was time to prioritize by thinking about how each could turn into a useful feature. The result was a list of core requirements that would make up Kindness Connect.

The next step was to thoughtfully sketch each feature into web design mock-ups. This was when the real grind began. Taking sketches and making them come to life is a lot like taking a sheet of music and using an instrument to bring a song to life. In our case, the sheet of music is the design sketch, the instrument is computer programming code, and the song is the web platform.

However, this hasn’t been a solo mission, which brings us to our notable exception. At the beginning of the project we set a rule that this would be a collaborative effort. We weren’t going to build it alone. True to this rule, we’ve been meeting with community organizations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). These organizations have provided us with invaluable feedback on their workflow, difficulties they face, product suggestions, and so forth.

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Jon and Kevan hosting a workshop at the University of Waterloo’s Leadership Starts Here Conference

Next Up
We’re happy to announce that the technical development of Kindness Connect is almost complete and we’re moving onto a milestone that we’ve been looking forward to: putting Kindness Connect in the hands of the public. This milestone is really important for us. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate what we’ve been building, connect with users, and amass some real world usage.

Kindness Connect's Map Search: a tool for finding opportunities in a user's area

Kindness Connect’s Map Search: a Tool for Finding Opportunities in a User’s Area

We’re fortunate to have the support of some great organizations in the GTA who have agreed to help us with this public testing phase. We’ll also be looking for individuals in the area to evaluate from a volunteer perspective.

Community
The community has been a great source for generating ideas for Kindness Connect. Frequently in random meetings and conversations people have shared their ideas by saying “wouldn’t it be cool if” or “have you thought of” and often these ideas have made their way into development.

We are grateful for such input and equally grateful to YCI for selecting us as the recipients of the Global Action Grant. We feel as though we have been warmly welcomed into YCI’s fantastic community and would like to extend an invitation to the YCI community to provide us with further suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line, introduce yourself, and share any ideas you might have at info@kindnessconnect.com. It’s simple: if you have ideas, we’d love to hear them.

Thank-you to YCI for your support and to the YCI community for keeping us inspired.

Happy volunteering!

– Jon and Kevan

Email – info@kindnessconnect.com
Twitter – @KindnessToronto https://twitter.com/kindnesstoronto
Facebook – www.facebook.com/KindnessConnect
Website – www.kindnessconnect.com

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Global Action Grant – Update from Robin Campbell

Wolfville Youth Leaders Core Group

Our group has been working hard to develop our youth action project. Over the past month we have met some very exciting and inspiring international development leaders!

On March 2, 2013 we travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia (an hour away) to meet with the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association (NSGA). Their Executive Director, Muhammed Ngallen, shared his story of what it was like to grow up in The Gambia and we learned about the life-saving initiatives the NSGA is doing in The Gambia. Jakob Conrad then joined us, an inspiring young man who started “Twoonies from Toubabs,” a fundraising initiative he started at just age nine (he is shown in the picture talking to our group). He helped inspire our youth on how something simple can have an extraordinary impact. He showed us that young people can truly make a difference. His mother, Cathy Conrad, who is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the NSGA, joined Jakob and she also helped the youth to understand how they can make a difference.

wolfville youth leaders

Then on March 6th, we had a great Skype meeting with Rebecca Sweetman, Executive Director of the Paradigm Shift Project. She shared with us how she started the organization and how making documentary films and using media can make a change.

Our group has been so inspired by these leaders. The group has decided to develop a short-film/video on plastic bag use and waste, and how youth in their area can help to reduce the impact on our environment and how this will help locally and globally. Over the next month we will be working on creating this video. At the end of April, we are going to hold a showing of the film in our community and use this opportunity to raise money for an international development organization.

As the leader of this group, I am so thankful to everyone who has helped and inspired the youth for their project; and I am especially proud of our group for their project choice and their passion to make a difference here in rural Nova Scotia. Thank you, Youth Challenge International, for making this possible.

– Robin Campbell, Global Action Grant winner and Youth Ambassador alumnus.

Q & A with Global Action Grant Winner Kanentakwas David

YCI is pleased to present our third Global Action Grant winner, Kanentakwas David. The Global Action Grant program was started for Canadian Youth interested in creating innovative solutions to youth issues in development. Read on as Kanentakwas answers some questions about who she is and how she will be using the $500 grant to fund the implementation of her micro-project to raise awareness about development issues in her community.

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Q. Can you please give a short self-introduction of yourself?

A. My Names Kanentakwas ( Ga-Nuht-Da-Gwaz) means picking pines. I am from the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. I recently graduated from college and I am now studying at Carleton University and working at the Adolescent Treatment Centre on my reserve. As I have been involved in many youth related activities in the last few months, I have learned more about other Indigenous communities across Canada and have become more familiar with reconciliation and cultural identity.

Q. Please explain “What’s your issue” that you want to address with your grant and “what are you going to do about it”.

A. This past summer I went on a trip to Algonquin Park on a cultural exchange with an Algonquin elder and other trip goers. This trip was comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from across Canada. I was oblivious to the many issues other first nation communities went through and how much non-Indigenous youth actually knew about Indigenous peoples within Canada. This brought me to brainstorm a way to help break down the walls between Indigenous – Indigenous and Indigenous – non-Indigenous peoples of Canada. Reconciliation is what I want to work on. I think it’s important that people of Canada are educated on the first peoples of Canada and that the first peoples of Canada learn about how not every Canadian citizen has a history that started in Canada but that it can be traced further back and farther away. I am going to organize a conference for youth of all different backgrounds that will help break down these barriers. Having a cultural exchange of the different teachings and histories with each other will prove to be very beneficial in achieving this goal.

Q. How does the project you’re implementing in Canada promote global community development awareness among Canadian youth? How does their project connect to a broader international development issue?

A. The goal of this youth conference is to share different cultures between Indigenous and non- Indigenous youth. There will be a speaker from the Anishnabek Nation who will help youth learn their teachings, as well as a speaker from Chippewa Nation who will teach youth their history and teachings. Having Non-indigenous youth attend is very important so that an exchange in culture can happen between the participants. By having speakers from outside the community we are helping to break through barriers with youth that don’t get the chance to travel and learn about the different nations and people around the community. This Conference will help develop a connection and a clearer understanding of youth within and outside of the community. Many problems between two different cultures begin with ignorance and not being educated about that group of people. By surrounding ourselves in a respectful cultural exchange we help people become aware of the peoples of Canada and contribute to development in the community itself.

Q. Tell us how YCI’s Global Action Grant is going to help you achieve/complete your project.

A. YCI’s grant will help me gather youth to a place where cultural exchanging will happen. This project will have the chance to bring teachers from other places within Canada to teach youth about the different cultures within this great country.

Global Action Grant Winners: Kevan Osmond and Jon Burns

Hello!

We’re Jon Burns and Kevan Osmond, two recent University of Waterloo graduates. While our careers took us to different paths after graduation, we always maintained one thing in common: our enthusiasm for volunteering. Like many other Canadians, our busy schedules often limited us from being as active as we’d like in the volunteer sector. We’ve now joined forces in Toronto to work towards improving the state of volunteering in Canada. Our mission is to get more people ‘up on their feet’ doing good work for great organizations!

Kindness Connect - Jon (left) Kevan (right)

Jon and Kevan

Good People, Great Organizations

Have you ever wanted to use some of your free time to volunteer but encountered barriers, such as confusing application processes or time commitments that didn’t work with your schedule? The 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP) reported non-volunteers’ top barriers, despite being interested in involvement, were: long-term commitments (62%), not knowing how to get involved (24%), and financial costs associated with volunteering (18%).

Canada has over 161,000 volunteer organizations. With volunteer help, these organizations provide significant contributions to society and are an anchor to community, health and well-being. Regrettably, the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations informs us that 57% of volunteer organizations report difficulty recruiting volunteers and 49% have difficulties retaining them. Current practices are often messy, time consuming, and lead to missed opportunities.

Good people want to help out, but most don’t. Great organizations need volunteer help, but have difficulty attracting and maintaining them. There is a clear disconnect between these two sides. Our goal is to leverage modernized technology to bring down the barriers to volunteering, connect volunteers with the organizations that need their help, and capitalize on this missed goodwill potential.

Kevan volunteering in Haiti

Kevan volunteering in Haiti

Kindness Connect

We’re creating Kindness Connect, a modernized web platform with two goals: (1) empower volunteers by eliminating the barriers to volunteering and (2) empower organizations with an easy to use suite of tools to better attract, organize, schedule, and communicate with their volunteers. Free of disconnected processes.

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Empowering Volunteers

We want to make it as easy as possible to help out and volunteer. Volunteers will be able to find, and apply directly to opportunities that match their interests and skills or even filter for opportunities with barrier-removing perks such as carpooling and family friendly environments. If their busy schedule doesn’t allow for long-term commitments, they can still become involved by applying to specific dates that work with their schedules. Achievements are earned along the way to track volunteer progress.

Removing these barriers is particularly important for youth. “The likelihood of volunteering in later life appears to be linked to a number of early life experiences during one’s primary or secondary schooling. Those who had these prior life experiences were more likely than other Canadians to volunteer” (CSGVP). With a better system, youth can be empowered with an easy, engaging, and fun way to find positions of interest that help plant the seeds for community development in Canada and across the world.

Empowering Volunteer Organizations

Volunteer organizations begin by creating a profile to promote their vision. A volunteer team is developed by importing existing volunteer contacts and attracting new volunteers through opportunity posts. To save organizations time and resources we’ll provide tools for record management, automated scheduling, and effective communication with volunteers. Following an opportunity, volunteer connections can be developed and not lost; analytics, recommendations, appreciation scores, and direct messaging will help evolve relationships.

Jon during the Ride to Conquer Cancer

Jon during the Ride to Conquer Cancer

Thank-you YCI!

Developing and running a web platform incurs server costs on a monthly basis. Without a server, a web platform cannot exist. Thanks to the generous support of YCI, Kindness Connect will have server costs covered for a full year. This allows us to finish development and get the platform out to great volunteer organizations and interested volunteers like yourselves. We’re excited about releasing Kindness Connect to the public, and we’ll be working hard to make sure you enjoy it.

Happy volunteering!

– Jon and Kevan

PS – We’re social and we’d love to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a question, comment, feedback, or would simply like to chat:

Email – info@kindnessconnect.com

Twitter – @KindnessToronto https://twitter.com/kindnesstoronto

Facebook – www.facebook.com/KindnessConnect

Website – www.kindnessconnect.com

Global Action Grant Winner: Robin Campbell

Robin Campbell is the first of 3 Global Action Grant winners that YCI is happy to present! The Global Action Grant program was started for Canadian Youth interested in creating innovative solutions to youth issues in development. As one of the selected winners, Robin will be awarded a $500 grant to fund the implementation of her micro-project to raise awareness about development issues in her community. Robin is a YCI alumnus, having spent 4 weeks in Ghana as a Youth Ambassador in 2010.

Robin in The Gambia

My name is Robin Campbell and I live in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, a rural community located an hour outside of Halifax. I am currently completing my Masters degree at Acadia University with a focus on international volunteerism. I personally have volunteered internationally in Guyana, Ghana (with Youth Challenge International!), Belize, The Gambia and Argentina. I also currently work for our local Regional Development Agency as their Development Officer-Volunteer Passport where I work to increase volunteerism and reduce barriers to volunteering in my county. One particular area of focus that I am passionate about is engaging youth in volunteerism; I feel very strongly about helping youth to increase their knowledge of community development and how to become active citizens in their community.

In my previous work position with the Town of Wolfville I formed a group of youth (aged 13-15) with the purpose of learning more about community leadership and how to become active citizens. Since starting the Youth Leaders Core in October 2012, the group has learned about community members such as the RCMP and the Canadian Military, and has completed a video making workshop about local community members, including the local newspaper, recreation department and local businesses.

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As leader of the group, my hope is to engage youth in my community to be more aware of their own abilities to make change and make a difference in our world and in our community. We are a rural community and we tend to have fewer opportunities to learn about global citizenship. My hope is that this Global Action Grant will help the Youth Leaders Core learn about what is happening right here in Nova Scotia and how they too can become involved in international development.

During the months of February and March 2013 the group will be learning about international community development and will participate in a sequence of events that will then prepare them for creating their own community action project around international development and the global issues that are important to them.

The Project:

1st: We will have an evening of films with the Paradigm Shift Project and learn about various global issues through short films. The Executive Director and Founder (Rebecca Sweetman) of the Paradigm Shift Project will join us by Skype to talk to the youth about her experience as an international volunteer and why she started the Paradigm Shift Project. She will also be discussing with the youth how they can use social media as a way to create positive social change in their community.

2nd: We will learn about opportunities to volunteer internationally and learn about organizations such Youth Challenge International.

3rd: We will be going on a trip to Halifax (an hour away) to visit the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association and learn about development from Gambians who now live in Nova Scotia and learned health education through the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association. Then we learn about and hopefully meet Jakob Conrad, who started Twoonies from Toubabs, a fundraising campaign to raise funds for health education in The Gambia. He started this when he was 9 years old (just two years ago), and has since created a children’s book about his experience and was also awarded the QEII’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Hopefully this inspires the youth leaders for their own action project, seeing someone their own age who has accomplished so much.

4th: Through these learning experiences, the youth will have the information they need to do their own action projects, whether it be in teams or on their own. They have learned the skills of video making, so maybe they will do this or perhaps they will start their own fundraising campaign. It’s up to them what they do!

Lastly: We will spread the word and share with the community our projects. We hope the youth will encourage their peers to become involved too. A community presentation will take place in March at our local Farmer’s Market (a popular gathering place on Saturdays). Press will be invited and the youth will share their experience and what their passion is now in international development.

With the Help of Youth Challenge International, We’re Going to Learn About International Development and What We Can Do Right Here, Right Now!