The Transforming Power of Work
/ Author: Daniel VanKeeken
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The Transforming Power of Work

The jobs we do are more than just a means to a paycheque. They shape who we become

By Dan VanKeeken, CLAC Foundation Program Manager

I’ve always enjoyed working—well, except for a few nasty summer jobs early in my career.

Now that I’m near retirement, I look back fondly on the 16 jobs I’ve had since high school, in three different careers: three years in the Canadian Armed Forces; three years as a carpenter on a CP Rail bridge and building gang; and more than three decades in various communications roles, ending with 15 years as a fundraiser and communicator.

These jobs shaped who I have become. They were more than just a means to a paycheque.

Through them, I learned many things, improved my self-esteem, and became a member of various communities. They have been more than a way to make a living: they were a way to build a life, to raise three children, to contribute to the well-being of those around me.

I was blessed: never out of work, even though I had to sell life insurance or drive a taxi for a few months (which were also interesting jobs).

What about those in our communities who through circumstances that may or may not be within their control have no job? No money? No home? Lose their family? Lose their self-esteem? On any given night, 25,000 of our fellow Canadians have nowhere to sleep, no home, no job.

Thank goodness there are hundreds of nonprofits all over the country who help people experiencing poverty and homelessness get their lives back together, get back into the workforce, regain their dignity and their ability to take care of themselves.

The CLAC Foundation works with 13 of those nonprofits, providing funding for safety and skills training, transportation to job sites, and other supports. We are helping Canadians from Ontario to British Columbia transform, building a better future for themselves and their families.

In 2022 alone, more than 500 lives of those experiencing poverty or homelessness across Canada were changed thanks to the CLAC Foundation. Hundreds more union stewards and leaders were trained to advocate for their rights in the developing world, where work is tough, often dangerous, and workers’ rights often overlooked.

Those are just a few of the highlights in the first-ever CLAC Foundation Annual Report.

Created 15 years ago, since 2019, the foundation has positively affected the lives of more than 1,000 workers in Canada alone—and hundreds, if not thousands, more with World Organisation of Workers’ partners in Bangladesh, the Philippines, Latin America, Ukraine, and more. All of this is done in a timely manner, filling gaps that various levels of government cannot or will not, to help workers in times of need or crisis.

It’s all about enabling individual and community transformation through positive, rewarding, and fulfilling work.

I’ve been blessed to have had all those jobs, been transformed, rewarded, fulfilled. And to have managed the CLAC Foundation for the past four years was just a plus, a wonderful way to give back, and to cap a long and interesting career.

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