There are charities for many purposes with widely different levels of quality in the work they do. Each of us decides the sectors we’ll support for reasons that are very personal. For example, facing a diagnosis made after two brief hospitalizations this week, I’m thankful that Lions Gate Hospital, with generous support of our community, has capacity to provide quick and effective emergency services. And, I’m thankful that a national charity like The Kidney Foundation of Canada is able to fund research, treatment and educational services.
But, I’m also thankful for small charities that quietly improve the lives of people in need. Last year, looking for a new home for two cellos our own children once played in schools and community orchestras, Gwen and I learned of the St. James Music Academy. It offers a simple and powerful mission statement:
Inspiring Vancouver’s inner city youth to bring social transformation through the power and joy of music.
SJMA sends out periodic newsletters and the spring 2017 edition relates a touching story titled Katie Longworth shares from her heart:
My little sister Emily had just completed her Bachelor of Education, and gone on a trip to South America with her dear friend Lauren from Australia. They first met at university where Emily volunteered to live as a Canadian host in the “international student” house. She always enjoyed living with and learning about people from other cultures. There she met lots of friends who she would later visit on her many travels. During her life she was always really active, doing lots of different activities with as many kinds of people as she could. She loved parties, was an avid runner, played soccer, and taught piano. She rode her bike as much as possible, and always found places to volunteer her time.
In the early morning of Feb 3, 2007 Emily died in a hostel fire in Punta Arenas, Chile, along with her friend Lauren and eight others. She was 25 years old. People started sending us huge bouquets of flowers. Right away we felt we wanted to offer friends a different way to express their generous support of our family and of Emily’s memory, something that would last longer than flowers. A friend suggested starting a fund with Vancouver Foundation. We were inspired to try, somehow, to continue the kinds of things Emily would have done had she been able to return from her trip and start working as a teacher. We set up a fund to support “extra-curricular activities…that promote multicultural understanding, healthy lifestyle, environmental awareness and inspires students to achieve their full potential in life.” Over the past ten years the Emily Longworth Fund has supported increasing numbers of teacher candidates’ projects, reaching over 2000 elementary-age students all across the Lower Mainland; by the end of this school year, the number of students reached will exceed 3000.
A few years after starting our fund, we looked at what else we could do. Music was always a big part of Em’s life and our family’s lives also. A friend told us about SJMA, so we came for a tour and were super impressed! Especially with how SJMA makes use of every single ounce of space; it doesn’t matter if you’re in a stairwell, you can still make beautiful music. That would have appealed to Em. She was always frustrated with folks who worried too much about how things looked; the “right” way of doing things, instead of just getting on with it. We decided to help support SJMA. We were really happy to support two field trips last year including one to Cheakamus Education Centre in Squamish. We’re excited to support two camping trips this year. Our family has definitely experienced the way cultivating musical knowledge can develop into a musical family that supports and helps you grow in so many ways beyond just learning music together.
Our involvements funding projects have really helped us grow through the experience of a young family member’s death. We have met so many wonderful people and have hopefully had the chance to have a positive influence on many students’ lives, which will continue paying forward. Maybe some of the students who participate or their teachers will be inspired by their experience to perhaps do other things differently. Also, it really reminds us every day that life is short. Do the important things now because nothing is certain. That has definitely shaped the way our family has gone on to live our lives and the things we consider important.
I realize that demands for funding are common but I hope some readers will visit the St. James Music academy website, learn about the organization and find a way to provide support. It could be cash or it could be a useful instrument that can be used in programs.
One thing is certain: your donation will benefit children directly and immediately and the organization will not hound you with professional fundraisers demanding more. It is an operation with minimal overheads and maximum dedication.