Meet the Werker: Emily-Anne Griffiths

Meet the Werker: Emily-Anne Griffiths

THE BEST PART ABOUT OUR SPACE IS THE COMMUNITY OF WORKERS WHO FILL IT UP. MEET THE WERKER IS AN INSTALMENT WHERE YOU TO GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE WHO WORK AT THE LAB – FROM WHAT THEY DO TO WHAT THEIR GOALS ARE AND HOW CO-WORKING IS CHANGING THE WAY THEY WORK. MEET Emily-Anne KING.

Between a part-time job, running a not-for profit and committing to daily yoga practice, Emily-Anne is keeping very busy. If you manage to catch her, however, she is always attentive and gives you the time you need despite her quickly filling schedule. She is kind with a generous spirit and a big heart. 5 years ago, after attending the University of Calgary to obtain a degree in political science, Emily-Anne and her mom began working with an idea. Inspired by the kids who need school lunch programs throughout the week, they started Backpack Buddies to keep those kids well fed throughout the weekend. In order to make this dream work, Emily-Anne had to get resourceful and started working as the EA to multiple tech CEO’s near and far – sounds ambitious? Just wait, there’s more. Today, Backpack Buddies feeds over 1000 kids every month. And her quest to end hunger doesn’t stop there – she is still partnering with “buddy” schools in the Vancouver area and if needed, is willing to grow from here. Meet the woman making it all happen, Emily-Anne:

WerkLab: What is Backpack Buddies?

Emily-Anne: Backpack Buddies is a local charity that aims to put an end to weekend hunger. Many children in our community, and across our country rely on school meal programs Monday to Friday. Backpack Buddies seeks to address the weekend hunger gap faced by these children by delivering Backpacks full of food to them on Friday afternoons to take home for weekend consumption. Each Backpack contains 6 meals, snacks, and fresh fruit. We currently feed 1010 children a month.

What’s unique about our program is that each and every Backpack of food we deliver is fundraised and packed by other students in the community. We partner schools from various communities with schools in the inner city. This is what we call the “Buddy” school. We believe that the act is equally as important as the result, meaning that the children who are packing the bags are gaining something equally as valuable as those who are receiving the service.

WL: Was your goal always to have a not-for-profit around kids or was there a turning point in your career where you realized it was a possibility?

EA: I always pictured myself working in the charity space, or in a role which provided a public service to people in need. I toyed with the idea of becoming a nurse, a lawyer, and a teacher, but ultimately none of those roles felt right. The moment the issue of weekend hunger came to my attention and we began working towards addressing it, I knew there was no going back! It felt natural.

WL: What or who motivates you?

EA: I am motived by the children we serve. As anyone who has started their own business or initiative knows, there are times when you ask yourself “why am I doing this?”– it can be overwhelming and often stressful. But the moment I am on the road speaking with the kids in our program, everything comes back into focus.

WL: What keeps you grounded and focused during the process of raising awareness and funds for Backpack Buddies.

EA: One thing that keeps me grounded is yoga. I started practicing 5+ years ago and it has truly changed my life. It’s taught me (although always a work in progress) to remain present and focused. But ultimately I am here for the children who need this program – there are kids who are hungry and we are going to try and feed them. Focusing on this alone really helps me stay on track.

WL: How do you define success?

EA: On a daily level, success is knowing I have done all that I can with the hours in the day.My vision for future success is that Backpack Buddies be “put out of business”. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. But true success would be comprehensive government policy which greatly reduces and ultimately eradicates childhood hunger. Lofty, I know. But it can be done. More can be done.

WL: What is one thing about Backpack Buddies that no one asks you and that you wish they would?

EA: I wish people would asked me why the childhood poverty rate is so bad in our Province compared to others. Spoiler alert: British Columbia is the only Province in Canada without a poverty reduction strategy – it’s not even on the table.

WL: Running a not for profit must be incredibly rewarding – what advice do you have for anyone with similar lofty goals?

EA: Find a cause that really speaks to you. You have to believe wholeheartedly in whatever it is you are trying to do. At the end of the day, if you don’t have this passion for the cause, others will feel that.

I would also say to do your research. There are over 10,000 charities in Canada, so before starting your own make sure that you are not creating redundancy within the space. Often there is opportunity for collaboration rather than going at it alone.

WL: What makes you most proud about Backpack Buddies?

EA: I am most proud of our community of schools (both Buddy and recipient), teachers, parents, and volunteers who all make this program possible. I help put the pieces in the place, but at the end of the day if we didn’t have the support of everyone around us we could never operate our program successfully or on the scale that we currently do.

Emily (left) with her mother – the President of Backpack Buddies.

Emily (left) with her mother – the President of Backpack Buddies.