Giving Back

I have been blessed with loving and motivated parents, unbelievable opportunities, access to computers and technology from a very young age, and a wide range of passionate and inspiring mentors all throughout my life. Many kids are not nearly as lucky as me, and as I’ve grown to achieve some of my own dreams, I’ve started wondering what I can do to help others achieve their dreams too. These thoughts have led me to volunteer time at several organizations over the years. It’s important to me that I zoom-out from my day-to-day on a regular basis, and aim to positively affect the world around me in whatever way I can.

826 Valencia

A quick glance at 826 Valencia reveals a Pirate Supply Store, filled with drawers of glass eyeballs, bottles of squid repellent and pens with huge feather quills scotch-taped to them. Follow the incredible and hilarious staff to the back room and you’ll see where the real treasure lies. The Pirate Store is a “front” for an incredible writing workshop: a place where kids come to learn and work hard without always realizing that’s what they’re doing.

My friend Matthew and I started volunteering in 2009 for bi-weekly drop-in homework help sessions for elementary and high schoolers. In 2011, Matt and I developed and taught a 3-month workshop entitled “Digital Storytelling”, teaching high schoolers storytelling techniques and jumping head-first into screenwriting, a Pixar-style storyboarding pitch process, critiques, acting, directing, filming, editing and publishing. The groups each completed a ~7 minute short-film. Their work was filled with imagination and humour, while also tackling serious issues such as loss, loneliness and addiction.

Matt and I returned to 826 Valencia in 2012 to run a new workshop entitled “No 1’s a Zero”, a combination computer-art and creative-writing workshop.

Surprisingly, 826 always needs more volunteers. So if you’re reading this and interested, check out their website. It’s a really awesome place and well worth giving your time and sharing your expertise.

Further inspiration

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.” - Dr. Seuss

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of teaching and I’m finding that I specifically enjoy the mentoring aspects. I’m following these interests at work and with volunteering opportunities as mentioned above. Nonetheless, I think it’s important to keep pondering on how you best fit into this complex world, and how you can make the biggest impact.

On that note, I am really inspired by the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m so impressed with their far-reaching global efforts, and reading the book “Showing Up for Life” by Bill Gates, Sr., further solidified my appreciation for and great impression of this foundation. On a recent trip to Seattle, I visited their visitors center (it rocks) and also spoke with some folks who work for the Education division. One day I’d love to do some work for them. The Jeff Skoll Foundation has piqued my interest as well with their work in “Social Entrepreneurship”, as well as Jeff Skoll’s incredibly inspiring work in film producing over the past several years.