Innovative student program provides greater value through COVID-19 pandemic

ABBOTSFORD, B.C.- Every spring since 2012, the Envision Financial division of First West Credit Union and Douglas College have teamed up to deliver its Community Building Program.

Pairing local non-profit agencies with student-led teams, this innovative program empowers students to apply their market research and problem-solving skills to address specific challenges at the partnering agencies. It’s a win-win all around: students gain valuable, hands-on work experience in the social sector and non-profits—and the groups they serve—benefit from their hard work and expertise.

Addressing the impacts of COVID-19

Even at the best of times, community non-profits often operate with limited resources—a challenge that’s been magnified since the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year.

“Many non-profit organizations depend on support from volunteers,” says Susan Byrom, Executive Director, Community Investment at Envision Financial and First West Foundation. “With physical distancing precautions in place because of COVID-19, these organizations don’t have the volunteer support they once did, and many non-profits have been operating at a reduced capacity as a result.”

Students have also been facing an uncertain future. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted their summer employment plans and the practical work experience they were hoping to gain.

“The Community Building Program enriches in-classroom learning by providing real-world, hands-on business experience with an organization,” explains Susan. “We know that this practical experience is a valuable resume-builder for those starting out in their careers. Our aim at Envision Financial is to make a meaningful difference to our local communities, which is why I’m proud this program provides young people with the boost they need to start making valuable contributions.”

From concept to creation: One student takes it to the next level

This year the Abbotsford Community Foundation was a participant in the Community Building Program. Douglas College students applied their marketing know-how by outlining a strategy to simplify the student award program application process with new software and develop a promotional plan to increase awareness among the Abbotsford community.

“The Abbotsford Community Foundation is grateful to be chosen as a partner in the Community Building Program with Envision Financial,” says Executive Director Wendy Neufeld. “It was my absolute pleasure to work with the Douglas College students one-on-one as we explored opportunities to impact Abbotsford students. We are so pleased that Vitor Makaron will now embark on a work practicum with our organization to implement the wonderful recommendations the Douglas College team came up with.”

Over the past few months Vitor has worked in a team with his peers to conduct research and provide recommendations for making enhancements at the Abbotsford Community Foundation. Now, he’ll continue the great work he started by helping to implement these strategies through a 180-hour work term he’s been offered at the organization, made possible by funding from Envision Financial.

Company Information

About Envision Financial

Envision Financial is a premier provider of banking and investment services for residents and businesses throughout the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland and Kitimat regions. As a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.’s third-largest credit union with 46 branches throughout the province, Envision Financial brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision making to the banking experience. For more information on Envision Financial, visit

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