Time to Spare? Time to Share…

Last year, I was fortunate to discover and lend my support to a charity that was so unique, so creative, that I had to get involved again. Let me tell you about the 3rd Annual Timeraiser Vancouver event that’s happening this coming Thursday, September 23rd at the Roundhouse Community Centre in the heart of Yaletown.

Timeraiser was started in 2002 by a group of friends who wanted to find meaningful, relevant volunteer opportunities in their home community.  It’s blossomed into an annual event that operates across Canada.

It’s a charity with a twist, using a silent art auction as an incentive for what they call “speed dating for volunteerism”. For a $20 ticket, people can view works of local artists, then bid on their favorites. But the currency during Timeraiser isn’t cash, but volunteer hours which are so desperately needed by cultural, social and health agencies.

Participants meet with representatives from more than 25 diverse agencies – including Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Canadian Autism Network, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Immigrant Services Society of BC, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation – and match their skills to the needs of the organizations.  Once they decide where they want to get involved, they bid anywhere from 20-125 volunteer hours on their favorite piece of art.  Winning bidders then have 12 months to complete their pledge before they receive the artwork as a reward for their dedication.

So far, Timeraisers have prompted 3,600 Canadians to volunteer, generated more than 45,000 volunteer hours for some 250 different charities, and invested $300,000 in the careers of cutting-edge artists.

Interested? I’d love to see you there. In fact, let me help make that happen.

I have two Timeraiser tickets to give away. Simply comment to this post and tell me why you want to attend, and what volunteerism means to you, and I’ll pick a lucky winner at random tomorrow at 5pm.

It will be my pleasure to meet you there and introduce you to the wonderful, committed people who’ve made this happen for the past three years.

Giving the Gift of Time

Like many people, I sometimes complain about how social media can bring out the worst in people.  But social media also brings out the very best in us.  I’ve seen it Danny Brown‘s remarkable 12for12K campaign, in the two Twestivals I’ve attended in Vancouver – and in the latest charitable event that’s happening this Thursday, September 24th at the Roundhouse in Yaletown – the second Vancouver Timeraiser.

Timeraiser was started in 2002 by a group of friends who wanted to find meaningful, relevant volunteer opportunities in their home community.  Seven years and 10 Timeraisers later, the initiative has grown into an annual event that operates in six cities across Canada.

It’s a charity with a twist, using a silent art auction to raise not money, but something equally as valuable.  Time.  That precious commodity we all have so little of, and is so desperately needed by cultural, social and health agencies that are chronically short of volunteers.

Participants meet with representatives from more than 25 diverse agencies – including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Operation Eyesight, Special Olympics and the Urban Native Youth Association – and match their skills to the needs of the organizations.  Once attendees determine where they want to get involved, they bid anywhere from 20-125 volunteer hours on artwork by some of Vancouver’s most talented emerging artists.  Winning bidders then have 12 months to complete their pledge before they receive the artwork as a reminder of their goodwill.

It’s a unique concept, and it’s captured the imagination of many across the country.  So far, Timeraisers have prompted 3,600 Canadians to volunteer, generated more than 45,000 volunteer hours for some 250 different charities, and invested $300,000 in the careers of cutting-edge artists.

Admission is $20.  I’m going to attend.  I haven’t volunteered in years.  It’s about time I did.  After all, I belong here now:-)

How about you?   For more info, or to register, visit the Timeraiser site here.

MentalHealthCamp 09 – Life-Changing!

It’s not quite a week since I attended Vancouver’s (and probably the world’s) first-ever MentalHealthCamp.  It was a breakthrough event, for so many reasons.

First, it’s paved the way for other cities around the world to gather together and examine, openly and frankly, how social media can help strip away the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.  Already, communities from Dallas to Ottawa, from San Francisco to Sydney, are looking to organize similar unconferences using Vancouver as the model.

Kudos to all the many volunteers and to the organizers, Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega and Isabella Mori, for their hard work and dedication.  I’m so proud of the fact that we were trailblazers.

But it was  also a breakthrough for me as well. I was there as a volunteer, the “media concierge’, as Raul kindly put it.  I could have spent the entire day merely observing.

But I didn’t.

I found myself deeply immersed in everyone’s stories – of alienation, of pain, of sadness – and of survival and fighting back for respect and dignity.  I found myself almost crying one minute, and laughing and cheering accomplishments the next.  I became part of that wonderful community of people, and am so happy I went.

Like most of us, I’ve had some dark days in my life – perhaps not as profound as some – but they’ve happened and they could happen again.  I also have dear friends and family members who sometimes struggle.  But I feel stronger, better and happier for the fact that there is no shame in telling people how you feel, and looking to others for help and support.

And blogging about it:-)

If there is one thing I learned at MentalHealthCamp, it’s that this thing we call social media can be a powerful tool when thoughtfully used to teach, to help, and to heal.  I’m ready to help whenever I can to spread the word.

To all of those who raised their voices, especially those who may have done so for the first time – thank you all.  You rock!

I’m Back…and Working for a Good Cause

Hi everyone,

Sorry it’s been awhile.  Many things have been happening – lots of them good.  And I’ll be catching you up over the next several days or so. I’m sorry that the busy-ness has taken me away from this blog far longer than I ever wanted, and I’m determined not to let this happen again.

I love talking to you too much

One thing I have been doing is volunteering for a few worthy endeavors.  I’ll be telling you more about them all.  But tomorrow, I’ll be devoting my time to a very important cause  – the Vancouver MentalHealthCamp – that’s outlined below in the press release I wrote.  I’ll also blog as much as I can.

My PR career began in non-profits.  I’ve never forgotten how difficult it is for these organizations to gain mindshare.  I hope my time and efforts can influence others in my field to do the same.  It’s worth every minute.

So read on, and track the day’s events on Twitter under #mhc09.  You’ll see me  – and many others in this giving, caring Vancouver blogging community there.  And feel free to add your voice here, or on the MentalHealthCamp site at www.mentalhealthcamp.org.  Many people will thank you.

It’s so good to be back:-)

Vancouver’s First MentalHealthCamp Scheduled for April 25

Day-Long ‘Unconference’ to Examine Positive Affects of Social Media in
Mental Health Education, Treatment

VANCOUVER, April 22 /CNW/ – According to the Canadian Mental Health
Association, mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time
through a family member, friend or colleague. In fact, 20% of all Canadians
will personally experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. This
can range from a decrease in mental wellbeing (e.g. acute stress, anxiety and interpersonal problems) to chronic mental illnesses including clinical
depression, heroin addiction, schizophrenia, or bi-polar disorders.

Mental illness is widely feared and misunderstood, resulting in lack of
treatment, discrimination and isolation. In an effort to help combat the
stigmas surrounding mental illness, Vancouver’s rapidly-growing social media and blogging community has organized the first-ever Vancouver MentalHealthCamp on Saturday, April 25. The day-long ‘unconference’ will be held at Workspace 400 – 21 Water Street, from 9am – 5pm.

MentalHealthCamp is being coordinated by two prominent Vancouver
bloggers, Raul Pacheco-Vega PhD, a recognized authority on environmental
policy and Isabella Mori, a Vancouver psychotherapist and writer.

“We came up with the idea for MentalHealthCamp as a result of very
positive feedback we received from a panel discussion about social media and the stigma of mental illness at the 2009 Northern Voice blogging conference,” said Dr. Pacheco-Vega. “We believe that social media tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook can be used to openly discuss issues, share information, and enable people who are struggling with mental health issues to find a voice and make it heard.”

“Social media can be therapeutic,” Mori said. “Sometimes an individual’s
need for support feels overwhelming. Individuals get a feeling of relief when
they can read someone else describe a struggle that they are privately
experiencing. This validation is priceless, and is one piece of professional
therapy that patients find so helpful.”

Among the issues to be discussed during the sessions are:

How can blogging help decrease the stigma of mental health?
How does someone with a mental illness navigate the waters of
anonymity in the transparent world of social media?
How is the journaling that happens in blogging similar to or
different from journaling for healing?
How can social media participants with mental health issues help each
other?


Registration to MentalHealthCamp is limited to 75 attendees interested in
mental health issues and/or social media. Admission is by donation, and no-one will be turned away for lack of funds. “Every effort will be made to help all attendees keep as much anonymity and confidentiality as possible in such a venue, and we are planning to have counselors available to attendees,” Dr. Pacheco-Vega added.

“We’re all extremely grateful for the generous support and sponsorship by
WorkSpace and the British Columbia Mental Health Foundation, and the help of numerous volunteers,” Ms. Mori said.

For more information, or to volunteer for the event, email mentalhealthcamp@gmail.com or visit the MentalHealthCamp blog at
www.mentalhealthcamp.org. Also visit the Vancouver MentalHealthCamp on Twitter @MentalHealthC.

Addendum
Dr. Pacheco-Vega: www.raulpacheco.org
Ms. Mori: www.moritherapy.org