Annual Report 2019

Leading by listening to other voices

Nothing about us without us.

If you’ve ever been to a United Way event, watched our campaign videos or read any of the inspiring stories on our website, you’ll likely recognize one of our community advisors. Community advisors are people who have personal experience with poverty and marginalization. They come from many different backgrounds, with different traumas, experiences and hopes and dreams for the future. 

A key part of the work we do every year is creating spaces and opportunities where these advisors can share their experiences.

The value of listening

Community advisors have experiences that can vary greatly. For some, an illness or disability has caused them to fall into poverty. Others grew up experiencing poverty, have struggled with an addiction, or have experienced violence or trauma. One thing is very clear: poverty and marginalization are the threads that tie them together 

Working with community advisors allows us to see and understand issues from a personal, intimate and local perspective. It makes sure that we’re always expanding our knowledge of what’s working, so that we can keep investing money, time and effort there. 

The power of connection

Our agencies often make connections with our community advisors. They share success stories from their program participants, share opportunities with others and make a point to help. Hearing from people with lived experience is valuable for all of us – it gives others the opportunity to have their voice heard by more people.

The more people understand the impacts of poverty, the more likely it is that change can come about.

For the last two years, Songs of the City has given us the opportunity to highlight deeply personal stories from people impacted by our funded programs. Their stories have been incredibly moving for our staff, donors and supporters, who are all committed to working towards ending poverty. But comments from attendees tell us they also bring something else – hope. 

Following the event, one attendee said, “I loved the diversity of storytellers, and how they were honest about the hard times, but also showed that change and hope are possible if we help one another and if services are well provided.”  

Katie was one of the storytellers at the 2019 event. 

After taking the stage at Songs of the City, Katie went on to share her story with some of our workplace partners, so that more employees could connect with the details of her story – and the value of their support.

The honesty and vulnerability that Katie shared with many of us last year wasn’t easy for her, but it was so powerful. 

Sharing my story at Songs of the City made me feel more comfortable and less ashamed of my past life and experiences. And I like that my story puts a face to the issues of addiction and on sex work. If you don’t know about those things – if they’re not part of your life – they might not even feel real. But they areI’m glad I can help people find more compassion for others.

Community advisors have become so important to United Way Halifax that we couldn’t see ourselves working without them. 

Besides Songs of the City and our fundraising initiatives, they’ve contributed significantly to Building Poverty Solutions, our public policy work, and last year’s community sector summit.   

Facts & Stats

  • 19

    speakers shared their stories last year

  • 73%

    who attended by Songs of the City felt inspired

  • 85

    workplaces had a community speaker

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