Chad Wilkinson


Historic milestones: first grant application released and charitable status achieved

April has been a landmark month for Foundation of Hope. On April 2, 2015 Canada Revenue Agency officially granted FOH its status as a registered charity. This means all donations made in Canada within six months prior to this designation, and from this point onward, are eligible for a tax credit.

Foundation of Hope anticipates this historic milestone will bolster its fundraising efforts to date leading up to STRUT, the first major event of 2015. So, either get those heels on and start practicing your walk or get to the event’s website and sponsor any one of the teams of courageous participants.

The generosity of those who have made financial contributions to date has also afforded FOH to begin awarding grants to eligible organizations. On April 6, 2015, FOH released the first chapter of its grant funding process, which is dedicated to Canadian civil society organizations providing community services to newly settled LGBT+ immigrants (newcomers). It is FOH’s mission to provide financial support that permits these organizations, many of which are volunteer-based, to continue to do the incredible work that first inspired the creation of FOH from a small group of dedicated volunteers.

So if you are a donor please consider giving to FOH. Your contribution means the world to us. If you are a community service provider and eligible for grant funding, check out our grant application today.

In the words of Margaret Mead,

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


Words to live by.


Launch of STRUT

The STRUT launch was held on March 28th, 2015 at the Junction cabaret in Vancouver’s Davie Village. Over 250 colorful guests attended and there were many highlights. Most notable were the stories shared of two courageous newcomers who both arrived in Canada as refugees.  Speakers Tannaz (Iran) and Moe (Gambia) were incredibly inspiring as the both shared their personal struggles and offered hope for the future. You could hear a pin drop in the room as the eyes of an attentive audience welled with tears.

Symone Says set off an evening of festivities as an amazing hostess. She opened with an fitting number, “These Boots are Made for Walking”. Kara-Kata Afrobeat provided an evening of upbeat and energetic African music while the models, both men and women, strutted their stuff on the runway in stylish stilettos to the cheers of the audience.

The launch party captured the purpose and vision of why the Foundation of Hope was created – to ensure LGBT+ refugees across the world have an opportunity to be successful and feel supported from their first step onward, either towards safety or to a new life in Canada.

STRUT is a one-mile walk-a-thon in heels for LGBT+ refugees, asylum seekers, and newcomers to Canada. The whole concept behind STRUT centers around what a privilege it is to freely express one’s gender identity in Canada, without fear of government or societal persecution. It is hard to imagine having to wait in fear over a lifetime, then manage to escape and get off a plane not knowing where to go with barely enough money to eat, find housing, or gain access to basic healthcare.  This would be a challenge for any newcomer seeking asylum, but less so than also having to navigate a system that has little understanding of LGBT+ issues.

Refugees do not need pity; they require access to services that are non-discriminatory.

STRUT is our community’s chance to show how open and accepting we truly are. Walking a mile in heels demonstrates the power and perseverance of the struggle for equality around the world. This walk-a-thon is going to be hard, but in some countries, it could very well be deadly.

Come STRUT with us on June 6th, 2015 @


Carl Meadows


Hope in community: exploring Vancouver’s queer newcomer services provider network

As our foundation closes in our first round of grants, it is important for us to build relationships with the LGBT+ community and with those who eventually might apply for them. Part of that work involves getting to know the various service providers and grass roots organizations that do great work with LGBT+ newcomers.

As a board member, I have been assigned a number of tasks and recently I visited Catarina Moreno, Program Manager for Qmunity, located in the heart of Davie Village. Cat invited me for tea and a tour of the place, which includes a library with a youth lounge, meeting rooms for free counseling services, and the Bute Street Clinic jointly administered with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). When we sat down, she began by telling me about Qmunity’s four main program streams.

“We build community through a range of programs including drop-ins for free counseling and health and wellness services,” Cat told me. “We provide queer competency training that allows services providers to remain respectful and offers teaching tools for schools. We advocate through various forms of engagement to increase our visibility and we provide space for connection that celebrates queer community.”

Qmunity increasingly provides services to LGBT+ newcomers as part of a larger services provider network (SPN), which I attended with Cat the same weekThe group includes representatives Mosaic Settlement and Family Services, Immigrant Services Society (ISS) of BC, and Raven Song Community Health Centre, among other attendees.

The group gives service providers a chance to network on each other’s resources and identify gaps in the community. But after a while the discussion seemed to focus on one issue: housing.

Finding safe, long-term housing is an issue for many refugees who often face additional discrimination. Under the resettlement assistance program, government-sponsored refugees have access to temporary housing such as Welcome Houses, but only for as little as two weeks, according to Dorcas Mendez of ISS. Living in or near downtown Vancouver is also expensive, but that is also where most services for LGBT+ refugees are located. So many choose to live further away from the city, where they can become isolated.

To combat this issue, Mosaic identified the need for LGBT+ support groups and recommended service providers consider sending clients to Mosaic’s I Belong program — a six-month pilot project funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). I Belong supports LGBT+ immigrant newcomers by learning about “the intersectionality between sexuality, gender, race, cultural diversity, class, criminalization, and colonialism.” The project provides support groups and one-on-one community connection opportunities, conducted research to learn of existing gaps, and put forward recommendations in a report.

“Mosaic is taking baby steps and learning, building capacity, and remaining transparent”, says Roja Bagheri, Mosaic’s Program Coordinator. Funding for I Belong runs out on March 25 and currently does not extend beyond this stage.

My impression from the meeting is that clear deficiencies exist in terms of opportunities available to LGBT+ newcomers. Lack of housing and community support services are chief concerns held by the SPN; however, the willingness to meet and share resources and information is encouraging. It opens the door to a more collaborative approach. Foundation of Hope intends to be more involved with the SPN moving forward.


Valuable lessons learned at FOH community grants needs assessment workshop

The Foundation of Hope has moved one step closer to supporting LGBT+ refugees in Canada with its first community needs grants assessment. Representatives from across the LGBT+ community, refugee service providers, and grassroots organizations all joined up with FOH Board members on February 1, 2015. The goal of the meeting was to advise on how FOH can best target community grants to effectively benefit LGBT+ newcomers.

The group looked at potential grant categories that FOH is considering and provided feedback on each item. “It was really neat how we came to the community with our ideas on how we could help and they came back to us and said the community needs more capacity for sharing and collaborating across sectors,” said FOH Chairperson Carl Meadows.

The FOH grant development committee offered up items including housing, health care, circles of hope, community support services, and emergency funds as its first draft of possible funding categories. “But after it was all said and done,” noted Meadows, “the community told us we should shift our priorities away from ‘band-aid’ solutions and focus on supporting systemic change.”

The group suggested including a funding category focused on community capacity building. “Now it’s the committee’s job to look at the feedback and figure out what that will all look like,” Meadows added. The committee intends to use the valuable feedback to develop appropriate terms of reference for all grant applications going forward.

The Board would like to thank everyone who participated and offered feedback. We gratefully acknowledge the City of Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant Community Centre for allowing us to host the event. We thank Hamid for providing last minute Farsi translation and are grateful to Hugo at Blenz Coffee on Davie and Richards for supplying complimentary refreshments. The Foundation especially thanks Pamela Schmidt for facilitating the workshop.

We at FOH also want to send a big hug to the LGBT+ refugees who spoke at the meeting. It was truly a community event that brought wisdom and expertise to an evolving discussion about what the LGBT+ refugee community needs.



FOH launches its website at the LOUD Business lunch

Board members from FOH attended the LOUD Business lunch on Friday, January 16th. The Gay & Lesbian Business Association (GLBA) is a not-for-profit organisation seeking to offer its members opportunities for networking, exchange of ideas, and increased business revenue. Income raised through GLBA membership, sponsorship, and event fees also goes toward the LOUD Foundation, its charitable arm. Foundation of Hope Chair Carl Meadows delivered a presentation about our organisation and its purpose to other LOUD attendees. The website launch was such a success that FOH has raised over $1000 since Friday’s business lunch!

Shout out to Blair Smith (pictured here) and all the folks in the LOUD Business community! We thank you for your continued support and networking opportunities.

Featured image courtesy of Belle Ancell

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