Celebrating Charities Through Film

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This blog is authored by Lizz Bryce, CanadaHelps Chief of Staff and Executive Producer of our 20th anniversary video series.

When we thought about how best to celebrate our 20th anniversary, we couldn’t think of a better way than to celebrate the charities we work with each day. After all, supporting charities is why CanadaHelps exists. 

Our CEO, Marina, and I tossed around a few different ideas of what celebrating charities could look like. Was this a book? Was it a podcast? 

In the end, we settled on a film series as the best way to show the importance of charitable work. This was partly because it is hard to find films online that showcase work, as most are created for specific fundraising purposes. In addition, we wanted to use this as an opportunity to reach out to a broad, young, online audience to build engagement with the sector. Much is said about young people’s relationship with charitable giving (in our own Giving Report, we note that younger generations are giving less) but we both know it is not because young people are disengaged with causes. 

The next challenge was figuring which charities to feature from a pool of 86,000 in Canada, all doing such varied and important work. In the end, we decided to use the environment as our focus, and as a thread that could tie so many stories together.  As so many around the world are coming to terms with as of late, the environment is one of the defining issues of our time. It also touches so many things, as you’ll see in these films — animals, food security, land use, mental health, culture, and so much more.

While we didn’t expect to juggle a pandemic during filming, it has made telling these stories all the more important. With these films, we hope to bring viewers into the worlds of six charities.

  1. In the northern community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society is a leader for culture and heritage in Nunavut.  Founded in 1996, it addresses projects of critical importance to the revival of Inuit culture, language and history. 
  2. On the West Coast,  Nature Trust of BC acquires and cares for BC’s most critical habitats for vulnerable wildlife and plants. Since 1971, The Nature Trust has protected more than 178,000 acres with their partners.
  3. In Alberta, the spectacular scenery of the foothills of the rocky mountains helps tell the story of an innovative addiction support program run by Enviros, which began in 1976, when a group of social workers and youth walked into the forest and built a wilderness school.  Today, Enviros is a Calgary-based social services agency with intensive short- and long-term live-in programs for children and teens, support for young adults in need of transitioning out of “the system,” FASD services that include assessment, diagnosis and support, and wilderness addiction treatment.
  4. In Ontario, the film showcases the work of  FoodShare Toronto, which delivers good, healthy food and food education to schools and communities. Since 1985, FoodShare has modelled a food system that is sustainable and accessible to everyone, centering food justice in their work by collaborating with and taking cues from those most affected by poverty and food insecurity.
  5. In Quebec, the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) studies the beluga whales of the St. Lawrence river, and is committed to research, education and conservation related to marine animals and their habitats for generations to come.
  6. And In Halifax, the team at Hope for Wildlife rescues, rehabilitates, and releases wild animals of all sizes and types — from squirrels to bobcats — and plays a critical role in educating the public on the importance of living peacefully with nature. 

We created these films alongside our producer, Alex Gillis, an award winning Canadian Journalist, as well as a team of talented, young filmmakers in Toronto, Ethan Godel and Jonny Micay of JNE Films. Working with the team at CanadaHelps, Ethan and Jonny created three of these films in their entirety, and collaborated with local filmmaking teams in Calgary (Eric Gonzalez Films), Halifax (Only Issue), and Yellowknife (aRTLess Collective). Working with these local teams helped us not only navigate the complexities of safely filming during a pandemic, but also drew on local knowledge, experiences, and relationships. Each of these teams brought their own perspectives and passion to these projects and we were thrilled to work with them.

With the breadth of the Canadian charitable sector, there are so many stories still to be told and we hope this will just be the beginning. We hope you will watch, enjoy, and share these wonderful films, and learn more about the charities featured.

You can watch all 6 charity films, as well as a 7th film about 20 years of CanadaHelps on our website

Thank you to all the staff, volunteers, and community members from the charities featured who gave their time to make these films possible. 

Quanaqpiaqquhi Iqaluktuuttiarmiut  Nunavunmiunullu) ilauqatauhimagapta nunaptingnut qunnialiuqhimagaptalu nunangani.  (Thank you to the residents of Cambridge Bay and people of Nunavut for inviting us into their community and allowing us to film on their land.) 

Finally, thank you to Rideau Hall Foundation, The Lawson Foundation, and Panasonic for supporting these films. 

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