Meet BCause Box Charity Partner: Victoria Native Friendship Centre

Located in a residential neighborhood, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre from the outside looks unassuming. Operating out of an elementary school turned community hub, you realize it's bursting at the seams with activity as soon as you enter their doors.  Each nook and cranny has been utilized, with some spaces being multipurpose like the gym which operates as a community hub during the day and a shelter at night. 

It's beautiful to see a space so alive, and I had the opportunity to take a tour, join their community lunch, and learn more about their operations. From the wildly popular chef to their uber-friendly Primary Care Network Indigenous Lead Michelle, everyone was incredibly passionate about building community and safe spaces for the urban Indigenous community in so-called Victoria.

Read on to learn more about our BCause Box Charity Partner, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, and how you can support them.

Photo of outside Victoria Native Friendship Centre

Can you tell us about Victoria Native Friendship Centre?

The Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC) is a non-profit Indigenous-led organization located on Southern Vancouver Island, BC. For more than 52 years, the VNFC has been mandated to encourage and promote the well-being of urban Indigenous people by strengthening individuals, families, and communities. A dedicated staff of 140 people provides 70+ programs and services to the 17,000 off-reserve Indigenous people in the community, as well as supporting 4,500 on-reserve citizens in the 10 local Nations.

What are some of the programs offered at VFNC?

By meeting people where they are at in their lives, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre offers unique wrap-around programming that includes full daycare, early childhood development programs, family violence prevention, law and health services, mental health and addiction supports, education and employment programs, youth services, food security programs, housing supports and services, Elders programs, a full community kitchen, cultural and arts events.

What are the current campaigns or events at Victoria Native Friendship Centre?

There are always events, campaigns, and initiatives happening at the VNFC! Some of the highlights include providing culturally-based supportive housing for Indigenous Youth through the Ready Set Soar initiative, an enterprise called Knit With Purpose which is dedicated to sustainable livelihoods for the knitters of Cowichan Sweaters. Every Friday, the VNFC hosts a delicious Community Soup Lunch from noon to 1 pm in the gym, and everyone is welcome. Anyone who would like to contribute is welcome to visit our website and specify either a general contribution, or donate to specific programs and initiatives.

How has food scarcity or inaccessibility impacted your community? 

Food insecurity is an ongoing challenge for urban Indigenous communities. During COVID, we started a food hamper delivery program for vulnerable communities, and are still delivering 440 food hampers a month to Elders as well as sick and disabled community members. We didn’t anticipate delivering hampers long-term when we started, but the need is greater than ever, and staff are at capacity for providing these services. The Friday Community Soup lunches are also really well attended, with at least 120-130 people every week.

In your time at Victoria Native Friendship Centre, has there been a highlight or impactful moment?

Before the onset of the pandemic, VNFC was starting to deliver technology workshops for elders in partnership with Ursa Creative. The workshops helped meet the increased need for remote technology, and were also a way for VNFC staff to gain an understanding of elders’ needs so they could provide support like food boxes, masks, and other essential items.

“After about one week of the workshops, about 40 of the elders had created a profile and joined their first call on Zoom. They had a little check-in with each other… they were concerned about the grocery store shelves being empty, not being able to take taxis, not having masks…there were all of these things they were starting to need. We started to piece all of this together.” 

– Ron Rice-Wush’q MGC, Executive Director, Victoria Native Friendship Centre 

Support the Victoria Native Friendship Centre by volunteering or donating which can be found on their website or by subscribing to the VFNC BCause Box below and 5% of each box is donated to VFNC.

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