Downtown Kitchener

Pitch In Event

Tech Leaders Pitch on Behalf of Not-for-Profits in KW

February 2018, Feature by Lacey Heels

Recently, some of Kitchener-Waterloo region’s brightest tech leaders/“Pitch Artists” came together for a different kind of pitch competition. Focused on competing for a good cause, seven leaders from various local businesses represented a local not-for-profit and focused their pitch on advocating the work these organizations do, why it’s important and how people can volunteer to help make a positive impact in the community.

Some pitches contained personal, heartfelt stories, some brought the audience to tears and others to laughter. Each pitch told a story, informed the audience and encouraged each person in the room to get involved and act by investing the most valuable resource-- their time-- into a local charity.

Here is a breakdown of how each pitch went:

Jay Shah, Velocity Incubator -- 
Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Jay Shah spoke about the value of mentoring and building relationships with the youth of our community. Highlighting the invaluable experience one can get from their mentoring programs, by volunteering just two hours a week or by committing two visits a month of mentorship to the deserving youth of BBBSWR.

Michael Litt, Vidyard -- 
House of Friendship

Michael Litt shared a story of discovering Richard, a homeless man with the same grey-blue eyes as his own, that he found on a Facebook group page for the Homeless in Kitchener-Waterloo. Richard, as Michael revealed was his Uncle (which opened his eyes to the realities of homelessness in KW), and when he spoke to him about his experience, Richard said that places like the House of Friendship saved his life.

Michael urged the room to help by way of two volunteer programs by the House of Friendship: Community Services like serving breakfast from 6am-8am before the workday throughout the week or by participating in Summer Camp Sponsorship, a program that supports youth living in low income neighbourhoods to go away to camp for a week, a potentially life changing experience.

Calvin Chu, Palette -- 
Kitchener Public Library

Calvin Chu spoke from experience about the Kitchener Public Library as a space that not only educates but unites and bonds the community through their various programs and services. He encouraged listeners to support two programs from KPL: Tech for Tutors, a program where one can volunteer to teach community members how to use a computer and mobile device. Simple, but a vital skill many want and need to learn. Secondly, he highlighted Reading Buddies, a program where volunteers are matched up with children from grades 1-4 to assist them in practicing literacy skills.

Marylin X. Ma, Quali.AI -- Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery

The current Exhibition at the Kitchener-Waterloo art gallery is focused on photojournalists work from war-torn and developing countries. Marylin described the power of art and the bravery of artists and the lengths they go to, to share art that exists outside of our everyday perspectives, so that viewers can learn and experience things outside of their immediate and everyday reality. She spoke fondly of the work the KWAG does in our community and encouraged others to volunteer, attend various family events hosted there, and to help by sharing pictures, videos and life stories on social media when attending exhibits to spread awareness of their programs to our networks.

Saj Jamal, SSIMWAVE -- 
KW Multicultural Centre

Saj had many audience members laughing and in tears as he told his story of being a young immigrant to Canada and feeling so left out as a young boy in grade four and desperately trying to fit in. It wasn’t until he met a friend and experienced the kindness of others acceptance that he felt a sense of belongingness.

He demonstrated how the Multicultural Centre does exactly that for many new Canadians and how others might help by volunteering in two ways: Career Connections and Conversational English. By volunteering as little as thirty minutes to help new Canadians practice conversational english over a cup of tea or by connecting qualified new Canadians with contacts in their professional industry here, to help them get a job in their specific career.


Jesse Ariss, Vidyard -- Community Support Connections

Jesse spoke fondly of sweet, elderly Edna, a 102 year old woman who is 1 of approximately 5000 seniors that are client’s of Community Support’s “Meals on Wheels” program, the “original Uber Eats” as Jesse joked. Jesse explained how Edna is one of many in our community who has grown older, doesn’t have a lot of family or friends any longer, and spends a lot of time alone, who needs support, by way of companionship.

Community Supports Connections is a way for the community to stay connected, volunteer time not only to deliver food, but to provide meaningful companionship that so many elderly people like Edna need.

Gary Klassen, Google -- 
Reception House

Reception House is a program that provides support to new Canadians that are government funded, while they move to the country and begin the transition to living in Canada. Gary explained how Reception House has helped 10,000 people over the last 30 years. And 2000 people in the last 2 years alone: “Reception House helps families to get settled, to get lined up with their government programming, to get initiated and to transition into society properly and easily.”

Gary encouraged audience members to volunteer time by helping these new Canadians adjust to their new home by helping them with the basics. For example, helping someone write their name for the first time, having a cup of tea and conversation, teaching the children how to play in the Canadian winters, ect. He explained how helping in this way is low effort but has an incredibly high and valuable impact on these families:

“We have the opportunity to be able to inform and lead our community going forward. We can't afford to keep small views of the world going forward, we need to think local yes, but we need to think global as well and what better way to understanding the greater world beyond us then by being a friend and welcoming the world that comes to us.”

Jennifer Smith, Communitech Board -- Sustainable Waterloo Region

Jennifer Smith shared what she and various community members love about Sustainable Waterloo, the importance of volunteering, getting involved or by participating in the multiplier effect to spread the word and movement. She shared that Sustainable Waterloo is about helping community members and businesses learn how to apply sustainability practices strategically so that we can all have a positive impact on the health of the world.

She concluded by saying that there are many causes to care about, and that if this wasn’t specifically an issue that people could volunteer their direct time with, that they could still help by sharing it with someone who might want to learn and get involved.

After the pitches, all attendees spilled into the Communitech Hub to network, learn more about each organization, how to get involved and enjoy the delicious food and refreshments. It was an informative, inspiring and heart-warming event.

All ticket proceeds from the event went to BBBSWR.

Pitch In was proudly presented by: Communitech, Plugin and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region.