Photo by Chung Chow
Precilia Kong delights in giving back. It’s a habit she proudly inherited from her mom.
As a young girl, still in elementary school, she and her older sister would accompany their mom on a trip to Vancouver’s east side each Christmas season. While handing out much-needed items such as food or clothing, Helena wanted to teach her daughters the importance of empathy, and to ignore stigmas.
“My mom’s a very fearless woman,” says Precilia. “She would talk to the residents about their needs and their stories, and make them laugh. She felt if we learned to talk to people, without stigmas, we’d get to know them a bit better.”
The experience left an indelible impression, leading Precilia to co-found Ignite the Warmth Society in 2014.
The youth-led registered charity is dedicated to providing opportunities and educational programs to students and community members in the Lower Mainland.
Similar to those childhood visits, Precilia and her team of volunteers spend a good deal of the holidays trying to brighten the lives of those less fortunate. At the same time, she hopes to further enlighten the public on the plight of the disadvantaged.
“Many people don’t realize that homelessness and poverty is a systemic issue that affects everyone,” says Precilia. “It uses a lot of healthcare resources, and it’s hard to get out of the cycle of poverty unless there is the necessary support.”
Dedicated to making a difference, Ignite the Warmth is asking for your help in brightening the lives of some less fortunate this holiday season. Through its donation days at Songs in the Snow at Steveston Museum’s Town Square Park (4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16), and at the Starbucks at Broadmoor mall (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15), the group hopes to collect funds enabling it to hand out supplies such as blankets and hygiene products to the homeless.
“We hope to share an act of kindness along with educating other volunteers about the issue of homelessness, and engaging them on the issue of poverty that exists in their own neighbourhoods,” says Denis Aldana, the group’s marketing and communications director.
Precilia believes much of the stigma or prejudice toward homelessness isn’t because people don’t care, but a result of fear. But she says unfortunately many people also use that fear to conveniently ignore the issue.
In her fourth year studying
integrated sciences at the University of B.C. (neuroscience and foundation of human health), with an
eye to perhaps becoming a doctor, the 2014 Steveston-London Secondary School graduate gained valuable experience working with others as student council president. It served her well when she launched the Ignite the Warmth Society.
“I felt there was so much more we could do for an issue that doesn’t get a lot of light, particularly in a community (known more for its affluency) like Richmond. I think once you get involved you start learning more and you want to do more.”
Ignite the Warmth Society needs your help this year distributing blankets. If you have a truck and can spare some time, please contact the group through its webiste ignitethewarmth.com.