I have always wanted to work at a non-profit organization. While my main objective during my first Co-op term was to gain experience in the Communication field, that goal to work at a non-profit had always remained in the back of my mind. And say what you want about the law of attraction, but sometimes it does have a way of revealing itself to you.
Prior to working at Burnaby Community Services, my background was in sales, a rather capitalist driven line of work that always didn’t sit quite right with me. Personally, I always wanted to participate in work that made a difference. That came from seeing my mother make a difference in the lives of her patients as an Occupational Therapist. As I developed my interests, I discovered they were reading, writing, and public speaking. But above all, what I valued was human connection and a sense of community. That’s where my desire to work at a non-profit started.
I worked as a Publications Assistant, which meant that I oversaw and updated most of the publications that Burnaby Community Services produced. The research for the publications was probably the hardest part, as I made over a 100 calls in total and sent almost as many emails in order to gather and confer the right information for the Community Resource Guide, our main publication due to be out this month. After creating the first draft, I read through it at least 10 times as well, and you would be amazed at the little mistakes you catch every time. The pressure of something going to print means you must absolutely hone in on your proofing skills, which I thankfully will now be able to transfer over to my schoolwork and future profession. I also helped select the cover photos for the Community Resource Guide and worked with Adobe InDesign to create the cover.
Perhaps the best part of working at a non-profit is being shook out of your little bubble. My main job working on the Community Resource Guide meant discovering and researching all the resources available in the Burnaby community. It was eye opening to see just how many different resources are available to help the diverse community of Burnaby.
The part of the job that I love the most has been knowing that with every phone call I make to verify programs and with every food bank I research, the end of this process and final product will go to help someone. It might only be in a small way, but the butterfly effect of that and the ripples that small changes can make are truly amazing when you think about it. When most people think of helping the world, they look far away to places who are in truly dire conditions. I know I did when I first thought about working at a non-profit. But sometimes in doing so, you forget all the good that can be done right here, right in your very own neighborhood. And within that, how often human connection and empathy can be underestimated in society.
It can make you uncomfortable at times, knowing the economic inequality that makes up our society. That is a particular part of non-profit work that I will warn about. Don’t go into it if you’re not comfortable with looking at the stark realities of the world. At Burnaby Community Services, there are particular families that have been a part of programs, such as the Christmas Bureau or Recreation Credit, for years. However, that is not what defines them. As my supervisor always said to me, “They are families with low income, not low-income families. It is not what defines them."
And I will say this, the non-profit sector can be a highly challenging field. Juggling the land mines of limited funding, limited staff, and an array of job duties can be a hard time for some. You must always be ready to lend a hand to a co-worker, help a client, or think of a creative solution to a present problem. Within that, you must also remember to make sure that your own tasks are done well and are not rushed. That focus intermixed with flexibility was perhaps the most challenging aspect of my job.
It’s also been an incredibly full and diverse learning experience for me. It’s an ever-changing and evolving field to reflect the ever-changing and evolving world it’s directing its services to. But to me, that’s the beauty of the job.