Catherine Atyeo is a modern day Robin Hood. Having lived on the East Side and seen first-hand the effects of poverty on at-risk kids Atyeo decided something needed to be done. Once herself a single mom, she and other concerned friends founded CLICK (Contributing to Lives of Inner City Kids), a foundation that works to improve the lives of underprivileged youth.
“I saw a lot of kids with very little in life whose families didn’t have the money to provide even the basics,” said Atyeo.
Run totally by a dedicated group of volunteers, the registered charity fundraises to support inner city school meal, literacy and sports and recreation programs. Since its humble beginnings in 2004, CLICK has handed out approximately $200,000 and supported 100 different programs.
Because of rising housing costs, affordability is a growing issue in this city. Families who, after they pay for their housing, have next to no money for anything else said Atyeo. Poverty prevents kids from actively participating in class, after-school programs and sports team says the Ottawa-native.
“But if support comes when they are young,” she says, “It can make a huge difference in their lives.”
What are the biggest issues facing inner city kids?
Simply put, the biggest issue facing inner city kids is poverty, which is a very significant barrier. The kids we support come from families who, after they pay for their housing, have next to no money for anything else, and often that includes food. So there is no money for warm clothes, running shoes, bus fare, let alone for sports, recreation, music lessons or camp. And as inner city educators will tell you, this has a major effect on the self-esteem of these kids. That’s one of the saddest things for me.
How do we solve poverty?
We absolutely need to make systemic changes to solve poverty—like addressing the issues of a living wage and the high cost of housing and childcare. B.C. has had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada for the last eight years, yet we’re one of the few provinces that don’t have a provincial poverty reduction plan.
To me it’s CLICK still being here after eight years, running totally on volunteer power, trying to get the word out that we can’t have hundreds of kids in our city left behind because of poverty.
Probably our last concert a couple of years ago that made next to no money. I realized I should stop trying to be an impresario and that we had to focus on other fundraising strategies.
It would have to be raising around $200,000 for programs that give children hope that their lives can get better.
What does success look like?
Probably that there’s less of a need for CLICK because governments have made the changes needed to help families get out of poverty.
Best life lesson you’ve learned?
Never, ever give up. In the early struggling years of building CLICK there were a lot of nights I’d be lying awake thinking, “What the heck am I trying to do?”
One lesson you’d love to give others?
A more compassionate city lifts us all up and makes Vancouver a better place in so many ways.
One thing you could change about the world?
Have it driven less by money and global profit making and driven more by what is best for communities, ordinary working people and children.
One thing you hate most about the world?
One thing you wish Vancouverites would stop whining about?
Three words to live by
Make a difference.
A talent you possess that many are not aware of?
I can still do a pretty good imitation of Barbra Streisand singing “Second Hand Rose” (I come from a family of hams and singers – we used to have evenings where each of us would get up and perform).
One thing you can’t live without?
Love in so many forms – the love shared with my family and friends and also the love for this, however flawed, endlessly fascinating world of ours. It’s what gets me up in the morning.
Last $20 bucks to your name, how would you spend it?
I’d probably find an inner city kid and tell him to buy a really nice meal with the money.
Best place for coffee?
Bean Around the World.
Probably the lounge above the Jericho Sailing Club, I love any place where you can see the water.
My current favorite is probably The Carthage Café on Commercial Drive.
A sushi feast once a week that includes wild salmon sashimi!
Last book read?
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
All-time favorite movie?
To Kill a Mockingbird.
Running with my faithful dog Buster.
Favourite sports team?
Britannia Secondary Girls Basketball team (they won the Provincials this year!).
Last place travelled?
New York City.
Best thing about this city?
Its diversity and inclusiveness
Worst thing about this city?
Its lack of affordability because of the high cost of housing.
Your favourite neighbourhood?
What would the perfect day in Vancouver look like for you?
Biking right across the city using our great bike routes; eating at an ethnic restaurant (there are so many great ones); and seeing some edgy theatre at The Cultch.
Community event, festival or gala that you look forward to every year?
Singing with my choir in the Vancouver Pride Parade.
The one place you take out-of-town visitors to show off our city?
Walking the shoreline from Jericho Beach to Granville Island and checking out the market and all the wonderful artists and shops there.
Who inspires you?
My father, who at 93 still has a total zest for life and has given a lot to his community and great causes. He had to give up tennis in his mid-eighties and he can’t sing anymore but he still goes to concerts and plays, and is still a mean bridge and poker player. He’s also one of the deepest thinkers and most well read individuals I’ve ever met in my life.
Who bugs you?
Local person you most admire?
All the angels in this city who are supporting and uplifting inner city kids every day.
Most overrated person?
Almost every star who is part of the bizarre American celebrity culture machine.
Most memorable celebrity encounter?
When I was interviewed by Margaret Trudeau to be the nanny to the Trudeau boys. Pierre came into the interview at one point. I was in journalism school at the time and I did it almost on a dare. I guess Margaret liked my letter and I speak French which was a prerequisite for the job.
If you could be any celebrity?
Actress Rachel Weisz.
Your secret crush?
Marlon Brando when he was young and not too bizarre. I would have given anything to be Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront.