United Way invests $1.2 million to help families in Surrey, Coquitlam

October 17, 2015

By Kim Pemberton, Vancouver Sun |

Surrey mother Jane Dizon says she understands the struggles some families have when they feel isolated and are unable to connect to social services that can benefit themselves and their children.

So this is why the young mother, who immigrated from the Philippines in 2001, participated in a forum last year in her neighbourhood of Guildford West.

The goal was for the residents themselves to determine what their community needed in order to help their most vulnerable residents: children from birth to age six.

The answers community members, like Dizon, came up with for their neighbourhood were released Friday and will now be put into action thanks to a $1.2-million investment from United Way.

“We are actively engaging people living and working in those neighbourhoods to come up with their own strategies,” said United Way president and CEO Michael McKnight.

United Way Avenues of Change chose Guildford West and is already in Coquitlam River because these two neighbourhoods have a higher rate of “developmentally vulnerable” children compared to the provincial average.

Nearly half or 43 per cent of all five-year-olds in those communities are considered “developmentally vulnerable” when they start kindergarten, compared to the provincial average of 33 per cent.

According to Statistics Canada 2011, there are approximately 1,233 children under the age of six in Guildford West and 997 children in Coquitlam River.

A child is considered to be vulnerable if he or she is unable to meet crucial developmental milestones, such as being interested in reading and writing, able to count, and able to concentrate. They are children, who without additional support, have a higher risk of struggling in school and in later life.

McKnight said both Guildford West and Coquitlam River neighbourhoods will receive $400,000 per year, over three years. In Surrey’s Guildford West neighbourhood, the two social service agencies that will deliver United Way Avenues of Change program are DIVERSEcity and Options Community Services Society. In Coquitlam, the program is being delivered by Westcoast Family Centres in their Port Coquitlam office.

Read more