Teens aim to help area’s at-risk youth

Peninsula non-profit group raises thousands at inaugural event.

Members of the Youth Hunger Mission Foundation held a fundraising event at White Rock Museum and Archives Sept. 27.

Members of the Youth Hunger Mission Foundation held a fundraising event at White Rock Museum and Archives Sept. 27.

A Peninsula-based non-profit organization founded by a local student hosted its inaugural fundraising event last month, bringing in thousands of dollars to help at-risk youth.

The Youth Hunger Mission Foundation, launched in 2014 by Elgin Park Secondary student Cindy Lai, hosted a day-long event Sept. 27 at White Rock Museum and Archives.

And while Lai said the day was a success – bringing the organization within reach of its current $10,000 fundraising goal – she said there were plenty of lessons learned from the group’s first large-scale fundraiser.

“The last few days leading up to the event were pretty crazy,” Lai told Peace Arch News last week. “We probably should have had everything organized a little earlier, and spread the word earlier. But it went well.”

Lai founded the registered non-profit last summer, as a means of helping at-risk youth around Metro Vancouver, and said it was born out of the realization that not all young people are as fortunate as her and her friends.

“We don’t choose which family we’re born into,” Lai explained. “We’re lucky, we’re fortunate and so many other children and people who are the same ages as us, they’re not as privileged or fortunate. So I felt like we should use our extra time off school to do something about that, to make a change in our community.”

Since its inception, the foundation has recruited more than 150 members, all of whom are students at Semiahmoo Peninsula high schools.

Lai said the group is still seeking more involvement from youth in the community and hopes to keep expanding in the coming months to lend a hand with the group’s mission.

“Our main goal right now is to raise awareness of and funds for at-risk youth in Greater Vancouver,” Lai said. “This includes youth who are living in poverty, fleeing abuse, facing mental-health issues, vulnerable to exploitation or living on the street.”

Prior to last month’s event at the museum, the group has held a few informal fundraisers, including selling Krispy Kreme donuts and Purdy’s chocolates around the community. In addition to the funds collected on Sept. 27, Lai said the foundation has raised around $8,000; once they reach the $10,000 mark, Lai said the group will pass the money along to the Surrey branch of Youth Unlimited, an organization that reaches out to youth facing poverty and other social barriers.

For Lai, embarking on creating and running a non-profit has been a good learning experience, helping to develop her leadership skills while giving back to the community.

She said once she graduates next spring she will likely pass on the presidency to someone new, but plans to remain involved with the foundation in some capacity.

“I really want this to keep growing,” she said.

To find out more about the Youth Hunger Mission Foundation, or to donate, visit www.yhmf.org