Interview between UnitedNOW! Council Chair, Ashley Forseille (AF), and YouthNow Council Chair, Harpreet Bhela (HB). The Youth Now Council and UnitedNOW! Council exist to promote leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy among youth in Victoria. Members of Youth Now range from 15 to 19 and on the UnitedNOW! Council range from 20 to 35.

AF: How long have you volunteered at United Way?

HB: I’ve been volunteering for the United Way since Grade 11 and this year is my third year on the council.  I am currently a student at UVic studying in the faculty of Science. Where did you hear about the United Way? Why did you decide to get involved?

AF: I had just finished an MA at UVic and I was looking to get more involved in the community. When I was a student I volunteered a lot in my department so when I graduated I needed to find a new place to volunteer. I had a friend who worked at the United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo and she suggested that I get involved at the United Way here in Victoria. The rest is history. So you got involved in 2011? What has your role been since then?

HB: My role as a member of the YouthNow Council has been to contribute ideas to our monthly meetings where we discuss our plans as to what we would like to undertake next. For example, in our last meeting we focused on planning our next event, Youth Council Development Day. Everyone shared their ideas and how we’d like the event to run. I have recently taken the role as the chair of the YouthNow Council and am enjoying it very much! What do you plan on doing as the chair of UnitedNOW!? And what does the council do throughout the year?

AF: I was really excited to take on the role of chair this year. Our signature event is Volunteering with Benefits. It’s a silent auction with a twist; instead of bidding in dollars, attendees bid on prizes in volunteer hours. This will be the third Volunteering with Benefits that I will be a part of and I can’t wait for the event. Mark your calendar April 16, 2015 from 7 to 9pm at the Clubhouse in the Strathcona Hotel!

Our council also organizes Days of Caring – one day volunteer opportunities for the council and anyone else who wants to join to come out. It’s a great way to get to know more of the non-profits in Victoria that need volunteers. We also attend other public events during the year to support United Way; from the Santa Light Parade to the Campaign Kickoff, we love to get involved. Can you tell us a bit more about the YouthNow Council? What are the goals of your council?

HB: The YouthNow Council gets together once a month.  At the beginning of the year we discuss youth initiatives grants and progress into planning a Youth Council Development Day for various youth councils in the Greater Victoria area. Later on in the year, we organize the Youth Now awards, where many amazing and talented young people get recognized for what they have done for the community.  So, how long have you been a part of the United Way?

AF: Two years and it’s been a great experience so far. I feel like I know a lot more about the social issues in Victoria and the agencies that are in place to provide services to vulnerable groups. UnitedNOW! has also helped me to make connections in Victoria, which is important as a young professional. Plus, I’ve met some really great people that I like spending time volunteering with. What do you think you’ve gained from your role in YouthNow?

HB: I have gained a lot from YouthNow.  I have been presented with many opportunities through which I have been able to grow as a person, develop strong leadership and communication skills, and gain more confidence, to name a few.

AF: I feel the same way. I would encourage anyone young person wanting to volunteer to look into joining YouthNow or UnitedNOW! Both councils are always recruiting people who want to get more involved in their community. One of the things I love about volunteering with the United Way is getting to know Victoria better. How long have you lived here?

HB: I’ve lived in Victoria for my whole life! And I absolutely love it here.  Some of my favourite things to do include spending time at the beach with my friends and going on walks. What are your hobbies and interests outside of the UnitedNOW!?

AF: I love to be active. That’s the great thing about Victoria: you can be outside year round! I cycle and run. I’m also a knitter. I currently have 3 projects in various stages of completion. And on a Friday night you can usually find me playing board games at a friend’s house or at the Interactivity Board Game Café on Yates Street. Have you been? It’s one of my favorites and their floats are pretty killer.

HB: What’s your favourite ice cream flavour? I’ve recently discovered Oreo Birthday Cake ice cream and it’s my favourite.

AF: I’m a big fan of mint chocolate chip, but if I’m going out for a cool treat it has to be Qoola. They have the best frozen yogurt and every topping you can imagine. We’re getting a bit off topic, and this is also making me really hungry. Just to wrap up, would you encourage your friends and coworkers to get involved in the United Way?

HB: I personally enjoy volunteering for the United Way and would definitely encourage friends and family to get involved too. Also, I have recently recruited one of my friends to join the YouthNow Council and she is enjoying it very much.

If you want to learn more about volunteering with United Way’s YouthNow or UnitedNOW! Councils, please contact Tara Taggart at tara@uwgv.ca