Supporting families through the United Way

December 3, 2014


Diane Symbaluk says poverty is solvable—here’s how

MacEwan University is in the midst of its yearly fundraising campaign for the United Way, which provides much-needed funding to over 60 non-profit organizations in the Alberta Capital Region. Every year, students, staff and faculty members donate time and money to make a difference in the lives of those affected by poverty. And although ending poverty is not an easy feat, sociology faculty member Diane Symbaluk says it is solvable.

Why do you support the United Way?

The main reason I support the United Way has to do with the organization’s emphasis on collaboration and social justice. As a sociologist with an interest in social stratification, I am hypersensitive to the unequal distribution of resources in our society. You can work full-time and still be classified as poor in Canada.

Like the United Way, I believe that poverty is solvable, but only through collective efforts that tie together income (so we can help support families that are below the low-income cut-off), education (as this is the primary means for people to get out of poverty) and wellness (since things like homelessness and job stability are implicated by mental health issues). You can’t solve poverty by throwing money at one program—you have to look at the whole picture and take a more holistic approach to solutions, and this is what the United Way is all about.

When did you get involved with the United Way and why? Is there an event or moment in your life that made you want to get involved?

I have always been an avid supporter of local charities and organizations geared toward helping the underprivileged. I first starting collecting donations for homeless shelters back in 2009. I was working with a sociology student named Tasha Davidson who was completing an independent study project with me centred on resources provided to the homeless in the Edmonton area.

As we became involved in her research, we both felt compelled not just to write about needed resources, but also to contribute to them. Hence, MacEwan’s first large-scale clothing donation drive. The first drive included all items of clothing with an emphasis on blankets, coats and cold-weather-related items such as boots, mitts and hoodies.

In addition, I’ve experienced first-hand what a difference collective efforts make. Every October, I head up a donations drive to aid the homeless in the Edmonton area, asking students, faculty and staff to bring in a toiletry item or a coat, or whatever is most needed at the local shelters.

What keeps you volunteering/fundraising/donating?

That one toothbrush, can of shaving cream or bottle of shampoo times thousands of individuals is really huge. This year we filled 19 large boxes—there were literally thousands of items. As a group, MacEwan University starts to make a big impact.

This year I decided to become an “everyday hero” for the United Way on behalf of the university—someone who donates a dollar a day to the United Way. I’ve already seen the difference the MacEwan organization of staff, faculty and students makes and I want to be part of that on a larger scale as we work toward the elimination of poverty in our society.

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

More stories about the 2014 United Way campaign:

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter