By: Karissa Gall
With a mandate to serve and with scarce resources available, many non-profit organizations face the challenge of balancing front-line work with community members against projects to enhance back-end operations.
Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) is no exception, and according to Director of Operations Kulwant Kaur, projects such as the implementation of the neighbourhood house’s website and creation of an electronic resource library did not have the focus of a full-time staff member, intern or volunteer until they received an intern funded by the VCN YI program. She said the intern, third-year Kwantlen Polytechnic University Bachelor of Information Technology student Chris Chu, completed work that CNH “wouldn’t otherwise have the money to hire people to do”.
“Chris really came at the perfect time,” said Kaur. “We were in the midst of getting our new website launched, and because we didn’t have a staff member working on it with their full focus, it was hard to get it done.”
She said the redesign of the 12-year-old HTML and Flash website started in December 2010, and that “somehow when Chris was here, it all happened; with his skills, knowledge, expertise and hard work, he was able to help get it launched.”
With Chu’s support, the new website was launched in December 2012; a “more user friendly” WordPress site that Kaur said will now be updated in-house with more frequency than before. She said that in addition to uploading content to the new site, Chu has been providing WordPress training to staff members who “didn’t join the Neighbourhood House with those skills”.
“It wasn’t required in their position at that time, but now it’s going to be something that they’re going to have to do,” said Kaur, adding that Chu is now providing ongoing in-house WordPress training to CNH staff as needed.
In addition to supporting the launch of the redesigned CNH website, Kaur said that Chu has also supported the rollout of a new electronic database of the centre’s resources, putting “Collingwood Neighbourhood House pictures, clippings, and anything that is historical into a resource library so it’s easily accessible by all in-house CNH staff”.
Drawing on his previous experience building resource libraries, Chu used the database software Filemaker to redesign the database structure and the user interface.
“With the new structure, staff can use a search function easily,” said Chu. “They can type keywords and the program will find the resource they want.”
Chu said the “experience with real-world solutions has been valuable”.
“This is my first IT-related job,” said Chu. “That’s totally different from what I learn from school.”
Based on his successful performance, Kaur said CNH will be keeping Chu on a contract basis over the summer to continue supporting website updates and the development of the online resource library, as well as a new project with the Intercultural Neighbourhood Development Program.
“Chris fits so well into the organization, our office team and the environment,” said Kaur. “He made himself a part of the team so well. He really tried to fit in very well and he does fit in very well.”