Volunteering is part of who I am – Kelowna Capital News


Jen Zielinski is the bureau chief of Black Press Media, overseeing 12 newspapers from Golden to Princeton, both online and in print, and she is also the videographer and our partner to help share the stories of the volunteers in this column. Jen’s positivity and commitment to the community is evident every time we meet. So for this week we thought it would be great to turn the tide and interview the interviewer to get a perspective on her passions and why she is such a dedicated volunteer.

Although her professional life is very demanding and busy, Jen has a big heart for the community, and in particular for helping animals and empowering women. This is reflected in his roles with three local not-for-profit making a difference. Jen is currently Vice President of HER International, a charity that works to empower marginalized women and girls in Nepal and Canada. She is also the director of the board of directors of the Alley Cats Alliance, a registered charity, dedicated to providing rescue, rehabilitation, medical and adoption services to feral and orphaned cats and kittens in the Okanagan and Jen is on the Kelowna Events Committee. BC SPCA, one of 44 BC SPCA branches across the province serving sick, neglected, abused and homeless animals.

“I guess the secret is, I’m not married and I don’t have kids,” Jen laughs. “So I have time and I like to share it with the animals. Animals really have a big part of my heart. I adopted a Persian cat with special needs from the BC SPCA and he is taking possession of my house.

Jen is also very passionate about empowering women and girls and was very intrigued when former HER International President Kevin Edgecombe invited her to get involved with this charity four years ago.

“When I heard about HER International, I knew it was something I really wanted to get involved in as well,” Jen enthuses. “Empowering women and girls is a big part of my heart. “

“She Creates from HER International is a program that was created by Kate Phelps, our Executive Director, that helps girls focus on things to empower themselves. It deals with bullying. It is an element of education and it helps the girls to focus on their own activities. They can share their problems and concerns and ways to resolve them.

“When we partnered with Hope Outreach for a project, we realized that there are many similar issues that homeless women here in Canada have with women living in Nepal. They have to deal with basic rights like access to shelter, water and cleanliness and so we realized that there was also a lot of work to be done here.

HER International strives to ensure their efforts in Nepal are respectful and works with the local people to accompany women to offer support when needed and now seeks to do more of this work in Canada as well.

“As always, we are looking to fill gaps in services and work with amazing partners to empower women and girls at home too,” Jen says enthusiastically. “And what’s amazing is our relationship with our participants in Nepal, it’s a two-way street. Some Nepalese women heard about the hardships faced by homeless women in Canada and wanted to help. So they organized fundraisers to send money to Hope Outreach here and support their efforts.

Passionate as Jen is, she is fully committed to expanding the impact the organizations she works with can have and is a diligent member of teams.

“With HER International, we’re really a governing council, setting strategic direction, raising funds,” Jen explains. “With Alley Cats it’s convenient and I do a lot of social media for them. With the SPCA Events Committee this is definitely convenient and we are constantly looking for ways to raise funds.

“I started volunteering when I was very young, first as a Sparks leader, with guides, then I coached basketball, volleyball and track and field in high school.” Jen explains. “I slowed down a bit in college, but then I started volunteering as a dog walker for the BC SPCA and from there I started doing different initiatives with the SPCA, in Burnaby and then in Kelowna when I moved here. From there it kind of turned into different opportunities. “

Regarding the balance between work and volunteer engagement, Jen explains, “I take each day as it comes. I really like to be involved. I feel it’s part of who I am. I love being part of the community and the action and honestly it really makes me feel good. Plus, as a journalist, I really like to know what’s going on – I have an inherent feeling that I want to be a part of things and that feeds my hunger to know what’s going on.

Dorothee Birker is the Communications and Development Coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organization news, please contact Dorothée at dorothee@kcr.ca.

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