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Meet Surrey’s Buena Tupe: Youth Director, Nonprofit Founder & Educator

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Surrey is a large city with an incredibly diverse culture, and I constantly meet many new immigrants and youth who find it a struggle to feel a sense of community and belonging. I mean, at first, isn’t it generally difficult to immediately immerse yourself in a city with people from different cultures and walks of life?

Well, I had the opportunity to interview a woman who believes her purpose is to help alleviate that issue and to provide a home for youth from different backgrounds and circumstances.

Buenavida Tupe, otherwise known as Buena, is a passionate youth director, founder of People of Grace International, and educator. If I had to describe her in a nutshell, she is indeed, a strong-willed woman with a big heart.

Buena was already a high school teacher at the age of 20, and soon after, became a university teacher at the renowned Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. She eventually decided to give up her secure job placement in order to be a youth director here in Surrey, B.C.

In her lifetime, she has already gone on mission trips to Hong Kong, Tibet, England, Ireland, Cambodia, India, and Vietnam to name a few. Another cool fact? She had her M.A. thesis on using metacognitive strategies for comprehension published in an education journal, and with this knowledge, is continually able to help youth understand themselves better and their approach to learning.

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Krystele: You have such an international perspective and have travelled all over the world. What made you decide to come and stay in Surrey, BC?

 Buena: I am currently employed as a Youth Director at the Fleetwood International Church, and I handle all the programs. I decided to stay in Surrey because it is a booming multi-cultural community, and I have the opportunity to cater to these students and these youth and their families as well.

Through her work, Buena’s mission is to also reach out to the local community outside of the church by creating a fun and enriching environment:

 Buena: We have what we call ‘Wednesday Drop-Ins’ where students can come for homework help, games and also career support through helping them build resumes and having our youth leaders in to mentor their school success and planning for the future. It’s my desire that youth will be occupied with meaningful, fun and character-building activities year round. We also have Friday after school activities, retreats, camps, bootcamps and overseas outreach experiences.

Krystele: It’s great to see how active you are within Surrey and to see the sparkle in your eye when you talk about youth. I’m curious to know your perspective on the education system here.

Buena: Well, I deal with different students: those who excel in school and are motivated in academics, those in French immersion that perhaps struggle in English or struggle in being excellent in one language, and those who just take it easy and just want to get over school. 

I think that in general, we have a good education system but just as in any society, the parents’ role in educating children should not be ignored. Parents should be encouraged to participate in making sure their children get the best education. They can participate by keeping their children accountable in their school work, sending them to good after school programs, giving them the assistance they need in classes they struggle with, and play the main role in value and character shaping. Parents should also speak up when they feel that the system is trying to manipulate their children to follow a certain value system or educational system they do not agree with.

As we continue to converse, she goes on to share her passion of nurturing, enriching and empowering youth of different nationalities by fostering their emotional, social, cultural, intellectual and spiritual growth.

Buena: I get inspired when I see youth coming out of their shells, smiling, beaming, growing, reaching their potential and recognizing their value. I love seeing them have clean, meaningful fun and seeing them use their time and abilities for things that matter.

Incredibly poised yet candid in all her answers, I asked Buena whether there was a moment in her life when she realized that this was her purpose:

Buena: One major moment was when I was at a big youth conference and I committed to share the blessings I have. I was a junior in university, so I think I was 18 years old at the time. From then on, I was traveling the world and sharing what I had with others when given the opportunity.

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Aside from leading various youth initiatives in Surrey, Buena is also founder of People of Grace International, a registered agency in Canada and the United States with the aim to give the less fortunate a chance by opening doors of opportunity through quality education.

Buena: We need to be proactive in reaching out to nations experiencing turmoil. Are we doing anything to help those who have no chance at life because of poverty or political turmoil? I founded this nonprofit with the objective to provide hope and vision to the young and youth by giving them educational opportunities so that they can fulfill their God-given destiny. It’s time to be proactive in reaching out and helping those in need.

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Krystele: Yes, I believe that too. A small amount of money, time or effort can go a long way in giving someone a hope and a future. How can the community support the amazing work that you’re up to?

Buena: Donating towards a child’s education or donating towards an outreach trip in the poor and developing nations I reach such as Philippines, India, and soon in the Middle East, and other countries in Asia, will be very helpful!

Krystele: You carry a long list of job titles – entrepreneur, founder of your organization, Youth Director and mentor to all these individuals. How have you been able to balance it all?

Buena: My main work and focus of course is youth and mentoring leaders. In the past, I was both teaching high school, university and doing youth work and mentoring leaders. I was raised in a home whose drive was to serve others and educate them to be the best they could be through faith in Christ. I am used to multi-tasking. I came to Canada not for myself but to serve the youth here and to help those in need. 

Krystele: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Buena: Well, I strongly believe that immigrants who come here are blessed to be a blessing. That is, we should pay it forward. I feel that people really need to understand that we should not forget our loved ones in our respective countries, and throughout the world, who are going through political turmoil, who are deprived of basic comforts, who have no chance at life because of lack of opportunity and because of the injustices in their society.

After my interview with Buena, I started to contemplate more about the issues prevalent in our society today. For example, the government plays a role by providing easier ways for people at risk to find a safe haven here; however, are we doing anything to help those who are new in Canada to feel at home? Are we doing anything to support youth from different backgrounds, families and social situations?

To help support Buena’s endeavors, check out People of Grace International or contact her at buena@fichurch.org.

Krystele Chavez with Buena Tupe

Krystele Chavez with Buena Tupe

Krystele was born and raised on the beautiful island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Although from a tiny community, she was already traveling to North America at the age of 12 to compete and champion international public speaking competitions. Her global perspective has helped her branch out to discover new opportunities when she moved to BC seven years ago. At just 21, she has received a B.A. in Communications from SFU and has already worked for numerous organizations including Metro Vancouver, Canadian Cancer Society, Special Olympics BC, and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association to name a few. She is an entrepreneur, and handles social media for reputable brands. Krystele's passion is to help others find their voice and be heard, as well as inspire others to make the world a better place.

Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Lori Quinn

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Lori Quinn, a community volunteer and philanthropist. 

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are and your background? 

My name is Lori Quinn and I am a retired Real Estate agent and busy mother of two. I am also a  philanthropist and national competitor of Arabian horses. I have always lived in the Lower Mainland, and specifically in Surrey since 2004.

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with?

Community volunteer and philanthropist.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of?

Of all my achievements through the years, my children are my proudest accomplishment. I admire the amazing individuals they have become.

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative?

Over the years, I have noticed the homeless population rising in Surrey, and yet there are no housing options. I believe affordable housing is really important in curbing this housing crisis and feel that the Options’ affordable housing project is a great way to give back.

 

Learn more about the Women of Options and make a donation to this important cause by visiting the website: Women Of Options

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The 50 Women of Options: Shelly Lynn Hughes

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Shelly Lynn Hughes, owner of Fresh Magazine and Project Her.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are and your background? 

My name is Shelly Lynn Hughes, and I am a multi-business owner and serial entrepreneur. I have worked in publishing for over a decade and recently published my first book, Pursuit:365, which also resulted in my first best-seller status on Amazon Canada. 

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? 

I am the President & CEO of Fresh Magazine & pursuit:365.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of? 

I find myself looking forward too often to reflect on what I’m proud of, but there are many moments I could look back on and think, “wow, I made that happen.” Mostly, I’m proud of being a mom. My work is all for my two girls, making them proud of me and feeling inspired to become their own people.

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? 

Women have a unique relationship with the concept of community. We have been the cornerstones of communities throughout history, and the Women of Options affordable housing campaign embodies this. What these 49 other incredible women and I have in common is our compassion for our community and our desire to give back. When those of us who are fortunate enough to be in a position to help choose to rally, we can accomplish so much. This campaign is a rallying point and I’m so honoured to be even a small part of it.

What are your social media handles? 

Personal Instagram

Pursuit:365 Instagram

Fresh Magazine Instagram

Fresh Magazine Facebook

What is your web address?

www.freshmag.ca

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5 ways Affordable Housing will Benefit the City of Surrey

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Lack of affordable housing has quickly become one of the largest barriers in preventing homelessness in British Columbia. Having served the Lower Mainland for the past 50 years, Options Community Services and Habitat Housing Society are working to provide safe, affordable rental units for the local community

Options provides essential social services in Surrey, Delta, White Rock/South Surrey and Langley. Recently, the organization has partnered with 50 local women to help raise $1.5 million in funding for a new affordable housing building in Surrey, BC. The money raised in this partnership will go towards the 100-unit complex at 81st and King George Boulevard. Of these 100 units, 30 will be market rentals, while the remaining 70 will be well below market rates —designated as affordable housing, with rent starting as low as $375 per month. This building and the resources connected to it will make a monumental impact on the community. Here are 5 ways that this building will directly impact Surrey:

1. Additional Resources:

Not only will the affordable housing build feature 100 new rental units, but it will also feature several community services provided by Options. These services include Early Years, special needs services for children and mental health outreach. Having these programs available for tenants in the building will be a bonus for all.

2. Build Relationships:

Whether it’s a social worker or an elementary school teacher, having and maintaining long-lasting relationships is crucial to establishing roots in a community. These networks of support will help at-risk individuals and vulnerable people build stability in their lives and increase their sense of community. Knowing there are people in your neighbourhood that can help support you can be a relief for individuals who do not have friends, family, or any other source of support.

3. Accessibility:

Currently, the housing market is very hot and the number of buyers is outnumbering the available stock. This applies to both home buyers and renters who are looking for affordable places to stay. This building offers 100 brand-new units that are affordable for low-income families. These families otherwise might not have any other options to turn to and be forced to consider unsafe housing conditions. Priced at $375 monthly for a one-bedroom, these homes can change the lives of those who are in need.  

4. Increased Safety:

By having a door to lock and a place to call home, the safety and security of the community is enhanced. Far too often, vulnerable peoples are subjected to unsafe conditions or forced to make tough choices. Many of these individuals are women fleeing violence, refugees, displaced seniors, at-risk youth or persons living on a disability income. . Housing such as this will better protect these groups and ensure that they have access to safe, secure and affordable places to live.

5. Job Growth:

The success of our vulnerable community members is a success for us all. In communities with affordable housing, there is often a growth in job opportunities.  A study by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing found that affordable housing projects created nearly 330,000 jobs in New York between 2011 and 2015, with many of them being permanent or long-lasting contracts (source). From engineers to health care workers, the growth of a community can directly contribute to an increased demand for workers. 

The Women of Options campaign was created to support the build at King George and 81st. More information and a profile on each of the 50 Women of Options can be found at womenofoptions.ca. Community support is vital to ensure its success. To learn more about ways to help or donate, please visit womenofoptions.ca.

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The 50 Women of Options: Tammy Dyer

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Tammy Dyer, Deputy Executive Director, Options Community Services.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are and your background? 

My name is Tammy Dyer and I have lived in Surrey my entire life. My background is as an Early Childhood Educator and I was fortunate to have been hired by Options when the Growing Together Young Parent Program began in 1986. Over my 35 year career at Options has provided me opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. I am proud to be a part of the Options Executive team. 

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? 

I am the Deputy Executive Director, Options Community Services.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of? 

Professionally I am so proud to be a part of the Options family and all of the achievements we have made over the years. None of my achievements that I have made professionally are ever achieved alone but as a team. If I have to pick a few it would be the Growing Together Young Parent Program that grew and evolved under my leadership and the current 81st Ave housing project that the Women of Options campaign is supporting. Personally, my biggest and most important achievement is being a mom to two amazing young women who are intelligent, kind, independent and beautiful both inside and out.

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? 

As a long-time Options employee who spent many years supporting young families, I knew that securing safe affordable housing was one of the most challenging hurdles that my clients faced. When I talked to other staff from other Options programs a lack of safe affordable housing was a barrier that their clients faced as well. This project has been a dream of mine for more than five years and I was honoured to be asked to be one of the 50 Women of Options affordable housing campaign.

What is your web address?

Options Community Services

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The 50 Women of Options: Isabelle Martinez Hayer

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Isabelle Martinez Hayer, Mortgage Broker with Dominion Lending Centres.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are, and your background? 

My passion in life is service to the community. A daughter of immigrant parents who struggled to raise a family during difficult times, I raised children to be engaged in community service, to be proud of being Canadian, and be guided through the principles of honesty, integrity, goodwill, understanding, and service to others. In 1989 I joined Rotary International and was among the first women to be inducted into the Canadian arm of the organization. I also volunteered on many boards including the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation, Surrey Board of Trade, the Bell Performing Arts Centre and TD Friends of the Environment.

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? 

I am a Mortgage Broker with Dominion Lending Centres. I have also been involved with A Better Way and the Rotary Club of Surrey.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of? 

I am profoundly proud and appreciative, with the support of my spouse, to have had the privilege of raising 4 brilliant and accomplished children who have made positive impacts in their world and family. As a servant leader, I have also had many wonderful opportunities to engage and support meaningful organizations in our community, accomplishing great things to help uplift our society. Lastly, as a mature student, I have recently completed my Master’s degree at Royal Roads University and hope that this accomplishment will inspire others to reflect that you are never too old to learn and improve.

 Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? 

I support sustainable housing initiatives that help promote individual resiliency and I believe that through addressing housing insecurity, the community will benefit by uplifting residents, enabling them to tackle other important issues like raising their families, being more engaged in society and supporting the betterment of all.

What are your social media handles? 

Twitter

Facebook

What is your web address?

Surrey Rotary Club

 

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