NICOLA WEALTH MANAGEMENT HAS ALWAYS STRIVED to be an active member of our communities, both locally and internationally — not only as a company but also in how we facilitate our staff and clients’ philanthropic goals. This newsletter is intended to inspire the culture of giving through sharing client stories and highlighting charities and causes. Collectively, we maximize the impact of our individual efforts and initiate change.
Kevin and Lucila McElroy
Our clients are as PASSIONATE about MAKING CHANGE as we are. Meet one of our clients and hear their story.
Lucila McElroy grew up in Argentina until she was 13 years old, at which time she moved to Canada. During her childhood in Argentina, she saw the large disparity between the countries have and have nots, something she has wanted to change ever since. Lucila and her husband Kevin, along with their three daughters are highly involved in philanthropy, specifically with two organizations, Baraka and Kadampa Meditation Centre Vancouver where both Kevin and Lucila are currently teachers. We interviewed both Kevin and Lucila about their philanthropic journey.
How did you first get started in philanthropy?
K: Originally I did very little, as it was hard to fit in between having a young family and increasing responsibility at work. I then sold my business and took a sabbatical, where the whole family moved to the south of France. Once on my sabbatical I had more free time and Lucila got us involved with Baraka, an organization that helps build communities in developing countries. Our whole family then went to Southeast Asia and Zambia, to volunteer and do service work with the organization. It felt so good to give back, especially as it was something I have always wanted to do.
L: It’s personally been a part of my family since I was born, as my mom has always been very involved with philanthropy work. We moved to Canada from Argentina when I was 13, and once in Canada my mom became really involved with philanthropy. She was especially involved with the causes people didn’t want to touch, such as aids and the downtown eastside, and I loved helping her behind the scenes.
You mentioned that you went on a family volunteer trip, and that it has been a part of Lucila’s family growing up. What was it like engaging in philanthropy as a family with your three children?
K: It was fabulous, you feel hyper aware of the privilege your children are raised in to see how the rest of the world lives. It was also just really fun to do as a family together.
L: Growing up in a country like Argentina, I was able to easily see that there were other people that did not have what I had. I always felt that in Vancouver my girls were not exposed to the idea that most of the world doesn’t live like they do, so while the trip was amazing and beautiful and something they will never forget, it’s bigger than that and important to continually discuss that with them and not just leave the bubble and have that awareness end after the trip. Before the trip, when we renovated our house, we needed a place to live. We live in the Westside of Vancouver, and there is a residence on the top of our Kadampa Meditation Centre in the Vancouver Eastside. So for five months the whole family lived there, and that was really the start of being able to show them that not everyone lives the same way we do. Over the duration of our stay, they had to live communally, sharing a kitchen and living space with six other residents (we had three of the nine bedrooms in the residence), eating and volunteering at the centre together. This gave our family a more intimate understanding of a “world” outside our family, our neighbourhood, our school, etc. I believe that from this understanding comes compassion and a desire to help the world rather than deplete it.
Wow! So even in addition to being teachers you and your family are really involved with Kadampa Meditation Centre Vancouver. Why are you personally so involved in meditation?
L: Originally I was looking for tools to handle stress. What I have realized since I started meditating is that it has helped me to make sense of the world and become a more powerful giver. Mediation allows you to gain inner peace in a way that you could not otherwise, and this peace does wonders in feeling connected with others and opening up our heart to people’s suffering (whether they are in Africa or sitting in a boardroom across from me in Vancouver). Mental pain has no geographical boundaries.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering giving?
L: I would tell them to first think about why they want to give. Is it because of your ego, because you think you should? Or do you want the world to get better? What are some areas that break your heart? People always ask, don’t you get tired? But if you’re doing it for others you will get supercharged. Figure out your intention first, and from there find what small or big action you can take.
How has Nicola Wealth supported your philanthropic efforts?
K: Jason and John introduced us to the option of creating a Private Giving Foundation (PGF) and showed us how to make our giving more tax efficient. I love the PGF program, it makes it so easy to give back, we have it all set up and it feels great. We feel we are in such good hands financially as well, and that makes it even easier to give.
L: When we came back from our trip, I wanted to take others on a trip similar to the one we went on, and our advisors connected me to people who could help me. So for me I have felt really supported on this side. They have gone the extra mile to connect me, support me, and check in with me, and this is really appreciated.
Kevin McElroy also teaches meditation classes in house for the Nicola Wealth Vancouver staff.
Making Doing Good Doable
One morning over breakfast a 12 year old boy was flipping through the newspaper when he stopped by a story that would change his life.
The story was about a 12 year old former child slave in Pakistan who had been murdered because he spoke up for human rights. Craig Kielburger, the founder and CEO of WE Charity, was 12 years old at the time when he read this story, and in that moment was struck with the idea that, except for the luck of being born in Canada, he could have been that child slave. He knew he needed to do something.
So Craig convinced a handful of grade 7 classmates that together they could make an impact and WE Charity was born. Since then WE Charity has grown to empower communities to lift themselves out of poverty through a holistic, sustainable international development model. However more than just providing aid, WE Charity is unique in that it operates collaborative programs both domestically and internationally to empower youth, families and organizations to make a difference.
WE’s core mission at the end of the day is to make doing good doable,” says Kim Plews, Senior Advisor at WE Charity. “We try to equip them with as many resources as possible to help them achieve their charitable goals.
WE Day and WE Schools
In Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. WE Day and WE Schools are initiatives that educate and empower young people. Currently they operate in about 16,000 schools and the program is free of charge to any school that wants to participate. WE Schools is a year long educational program that nurtures compassion in students and gives them the tools to create transformative social change. Students who are involved in the WE Schools program then get a chance to attend WE Day, a series of stadium-sized events that celebrate youth making a difference and feature local and international celebrities.
The idea is that we really want to bring young people together so they recognize that they are not just part of something happening in their own school, but are part of a movement of young people in their city and across the world that care about doing good,” continues Kim Plewes. “We also use it to give them new information on issues, as they are finding what they are passionate about and making change.”
WE Villages is currently active in nine countries across Asia, Africa and Central South America with the idea that it is a true partnership between WE and the local community. It focuses on infrastructure level development in five areas so that families can start to break the cycle of poverty, kids can end up in school, economic opportunities are offered and the possibilities of child labour can leave, leading to a brighter future. The focus is on five pillars; education, health, water, food and opportunity.
NICOLA WEALTH GOES TO ECUADOR
This fall, Nicola Wealth sent a team of employees to live, work and learn from communities in Kanambu Ecuador with WE. Since 2016, the firm has sponsored the community through WE Charity and their WE Villages program. With a focus on health and education, Nicola Wealth has been able to build classrooms on the school, increase engagement in schools through incentive programs and implementing the clean water project that will soon provide over 80 families in the community with clean water.
Our partnership with WE Charity began with the sound of 20,000 passionate young people celebrating at the annual WE Day event held in Vancouver. Yes, it was loud, but it was equally inspiring to see the impact WE Charity was making, not just in Canada but around the world” said Jennifer Keates, Investment Services Manager. “We found so much symmetry between our philanthropic vision and the WE Charity Villages program that we had to be a part of it. As Canadians we’re fortunate to have opportunities, health, education, access to clean water and food, and by partnering with Kanambu we’re proud to be able to help our neighbours have access to the basic things we sometimes take for granted.
Team flies to Ecuador
The team arrived in Quito Ecuador after a long day of travelling. They then had a day to explore the city. They visited the Teleferico lookout point and met some llamas.
The team descended into the Amazon Basin, to WE’s Minga lodge. Travel included a seven hour drive into the Amazon jungle, followed by a boat ride to get to the lodge. After the long journey, the team finally arrived at Minga lodge where they were welcomed by the resident WE Charity staff, including Mauricio the teams local guide for the week.
After breakfast the team got ready to head to Kanambu Village to start working on digging wells for the clean water project. However, they got the surprise of a lifetime when they arrived at the Kanambu school. They were ushered in to the gymnasium where about 200 children were waiting. The children joined elders from the community then proceeded to put on a presentation for the team, as a thank-you for all Nicola Wealth has done. The local guide said that he was from the area and has visited many times and has never seen the community come together to do something like that for visitors before. A truly special moment for everyone involved!
The joy and pride that filled the gymnasium was overwhelming; simply surreal as we walked in. I felt it was their way of saying “thank you for believing in us” said Selena Woo, Manager, Financial Planning Associates. “Witnessing firsthand our philanthropic endeavors through some of our initiatives in action (new classrooms, water project) was so impactful. I was proud. Proud that we, Nicola Wealth, through our partnership with WE Charity, are contributing to sustainable and transformative change for the lives of so many deserving children and their families.
After the visit to Kanambu, the team went to meet a local farmer to learn about life in the Amazon. There the family shared about farming, and the local tradition of a Minga, in which the entire community comes together to work on a project that needs to be done. The family also shared how they had lost a daughter who had drank unclean water and become very sick as a result, really driving home the importance of the clean water project that Nicola Wealth supports.
The team once again went to Kanambu to work on the clean water project, and to visit the school where the classrooms funded by Nicola Wealth are being built. After a morning in the trenches they headed back to the lodge and then to a cacao farm in the afternoon to learn about cacao farming in Ecuador and how these farmers grow the cacao fruits to be made into chocolate. They also visited the WE Agricultural Center in which WE provides agricultural education programs to local members of the community.
In the morning the team visited Mauricio, the local guide’s, grandfather who is the Shaman, or healer, of their village. He did a cleansing ceremony on all the members of the team and explained a little bit about what they believe and how natural medicine works. Afterwards, the team got to try some traditional weapons, including blowing darts and throwing spears. That afternoon, the group visited a local woman’s group in a nearby village. The women’s group gets together to learn and make bracelets, and other crafts, many of which are sold on the WE Charity website. Through these crafts they are able to help support their families. The women showed the team how they make the thread out of a large leaf, and they helped the team learn to weave and bead their own bracelets.
“One of my favorite moments was the time we spent with the women’s group. It was amazing that these women each have at least eight children that they care for, in addition to helping look after a household and family farm, and they still meet as a women’s group to make various crafts to sell in the market to generate income for their family” said Michelle Buan, Insurance Specialist. “What impacted me the most is the support that they give to both one another and to visitors, and the way they make everyone feel so welcome, they handle all of it with a smile and welcoming attitude. It was a true blessing to have been a part of that even if it was only for a short period of time.
The team said their tearful goodbyes to Mauricio and the staff at Minga lodge before their journey back to Quito. After a long two hour boat ride through the jungle as the sun rose they boarded a short flight back to the big city where they learned a little bit about the history of Ecuador.
Flight out of Ecuador back to Canada.
NICOLA WEALTH GIVES BACK UPDATE
Nicola Wealth Management values the role companies play in making the world a better place. The Nicola Wealth Gives Back Charitable Committee is a board of Nicola Wealth staff, management, and spouses committed to developing and fostering a culture of giving. The Committee acts as facilitators for employees and partners to succeed with their charitable goals thereby giving back to the world in meaningful ways.
Winter 2018 Update
The Nicola Wealth Gives Back Committee has lots of exciting programs on the go and are pleased to give you an update.
It was great to see our projects in action, and to have members of the firm actually work on building the clean water project, a great testament to the kindness in action of the employees of this firm.
Speaking of hard work, our Nicola Wealth team rode from Vancouver to Hope BC in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer event. They cycled over 200km in two days and raised over $100,000 for Cancer research.
Members from both our Toronto and Vancouver offices ran in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge (part of the 2018 Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Run) on Sunday October 21st, 2018 in support of Cassie and Friends, an organization that works to alleviate juvenile arthritis.
The firm also engaged in its annual Movember campaign this year raising a total of $38,869. Movember is a charity tackling prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. The team, led by Anthony Paes-Braga featured a fundraising champion with Lanie Collins in the top five female fundraisers for the cause in Canada.
We were proud to support Mark Therriault as he climbed Merra Peak in Nepal to raise money for Canuck Place Children’s hospice. After all donations were collected and matched by the Charitable Committee, himself and John and Claire Nicola, he reached his goal of $40,000 raising a total of $40,450. Mark was able to present the cheque to Canuck Place CEO Margaret McNeil and speak with her on the Wealth Exchange podcast about his experience, why he did it and the incredible work that they do.
The Charitable committee was also proud to support the Union Gospel Mission with a donation of $10,000 in addition to our ongoing support for their capital campaign. We also had volunteers go and serve a meal to our neighbours in need at their shelter in Vancouver.
This year the firm also sponsored Adopt-A-Wish at the company Christmas party. All proceeds raised in the silent auction went towards providing Sophia with her wish. Sophia is nine years old and has a rare and painful digestive disorder. Already this year Sophia has been hospitalized 10 times and has had four different surgeries. For her wish, Sophia has asked us to send her to see the Nutcracker on stage in New York and we are pleased to say that her wish was granted!