"The Story of How I Became a Child Life Volunteer" – by K. Elina

K. Elina is currently a Kids' Health Links Foundation Ambassador and is a former Upopolis user. She took it upon herself to write this blog post on her experience with the peer-support platform, her passion for the profession of Child Life, and her life as a difference-maker. Thank you K. Elina for your dedication to Upopolis over the years and your commitment to making the world a better place. You are an inspiration!

 

"Having Mitochondrial Complex One and Four Disease means I am immunocompromised, and has caused neutropenia. This limits me from participating in community-based settings including doing things that interest me, like volunteering for hospitals. But as a teen, I was introduced to a virtual program called Upopolis. I first became a user, and eventually an online Mentor to other youth in various leadership roles on platform.
Then when I was 19, I gathered research in resources for Child Life Specialists (a profession that works with children, youth and families in hospitals) and participated in speaking events answering questions about my experience being a pediatric patient. I developed my own personal blog and over time, through learning from the Khan Academy's Entrepreneur courses and becoming a Khan Academy Support Advocate Volunteer, I learned how Entrepreneurship can impact the world.
While I will never be a Child Life Specialist, I do have the title of Child Life Volunteer. As an Artist, and with the many skill sets I’ve learned over time, I plan to deliver my skills for free to all Child Life Specialists. I know this profession makes a difference, and for any youth out there, no matter what challenges you face, there are many ways you can help make a difference.
After all, technology allowed me to accomplish anything. Everyone in my life shaped me, mentored me and cared for me as I am today, and because of this, I withstand the odds that were stack against me and push ahead. My most happiest part of all is my extreme gratitude to carry the title and term "Child Life Volunteer”.  A profession that works hard to make sure pediatric patients receive more then medicine but also receive the gift of being able to be Child or Teen during challenging times. And, maybe one day, becoming a Child Life Volunteer virtually like I did.
Either way, I take the title "Child Lifeclose to my heart, having volunteered for Upopolis and now the charity that founded the program, Kids’ Health Link Health Foundation. Without the support of Child Life professionals, who administer and manage Upopolis, I would not have made it this far. Imagine for a moment if a pediatric patients like me, who were isolated, didn't have Upopolis? What would have I become? 
Your funding dollars help many youth everyday on Upopolis. Your support helps users gain confidence, leadership and feel connected, like I did, because of the program. Please considering donating to Kids’ Health Links Foundation and supporting Upopolis so other youth can benefit too, get the peer-support available and the access youth-friendly information that Upopolis has to offer.
In Honour and Memory of my Papa who encouraged and supported me in my volunteer roles; who was the greatest supporter of what Upopolis did for me. Every donation made helps another pediatric patient benefit like I did."
- K. Elina

KHLF 2017 Year-in-Review

Here is just some of what we achieved in 2017!

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  • We reached 27 hospitals and organizations in Canada offering Upopolis to their youth. The new hub and spoke model we developed allows community hospitals, organizations and camps to partner with us too.
  • 24 crew spaces are available for youth to join on Upopolis. What is a crew space? These are diagnosis specific spaces, where youth can meet others with their diagnosis and find information and links especially for them.
  • The Upopolis team expanded. Now we have four certified child life specialists with over 50 combined years’ experience- that is an amazing team for our partner hospitals and their youth to have access to.
  • Upopolis underwent a visual refresh. Yes, the platform now has a new look with five new themes for users to select. The new themes and features were an action item identified by the youth.
  • Upopolis youth established their own Youth Advisory Council. Having youth from across the country (and maybe further) working on the same projects- so much potential and expertise!!!!
  • We had more youth then ever join the Upopolis Volunteer & Leadership Program. Currently, we have 14 users across the country active on Upopolis as Upals and Umentors. Not only are they gaining volunteer hours, but their leadership and mentor skills are growing too!
  • The team hosted an exhibit at the Association of Child Life Professionals Annual Meeting. The team went out to meet with child life professionals outside of Canada to gage their interest in offering Upopolis to their patients. The team also hosted exhibits at the Florida Association of Child Life Professionals Conference and the Paediatric Diabetes Network Professional Development in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Each month the team sends 600+ users and health care professional a Upopolis programming newsletter, called Unews. This newsletter helps to keep front line staff at the hospital up to date on what’s happening on Upopolis, perfect for answering youth’s questions or building their knowledge for when inviting youth to create a Upopolis account. It’s a perfect way to help with youth engagement too!
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  • The Upedia Webinar Series brought in experts in pediatric palliative care, legacy building, mindfulness, research on the importance of online support groups and child advocacy.
  • Webinar attendance averaged 200 plus per webinar with attendees from all over the world.
  • A new certificate program for webinar participants was implemented that streamlines the certificate process for not only the users but Upedia as well.
  • Upedia hosted booth at the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP) conference in Las Vegas. The response was overwhelmingly positive. As a result we were featured as an amazing resource by the ACLP blog, and in their newsletter that reaches over 5000 Child Life Specialists!
  • Upedia reached over 1000 registered users and growing more every day!
  • Twitter followers increased by 180%!
  • We sent out a quarterly newsletter and monthly update to highlight new resources and happenings with Upedia to over 1200 recipients.
  • Upedia increased its database of resources by adding over 100 clinical resources and tools from various psychosocial domains. We also added a discussion board to highlight practical tools that Child Life Specialists can you use daily.

 

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  • We partnered with Raymond James as Umind's Presenting Sponsor
  • Further developed our partnership with Mohawk College; increased our student/faculty/alumni registration base, engaged professors in delivering webinars, and presented to staff and faculty in a number of programs within Community Services Department
  • Significantly grew the Umind membership base - with an increase of 54% over 2016
  • Significantly grew the Umind twitter follower base – with an increase of 63% over 2016
  • Completed 5 Umind webinars and increased overall attendance (up 49%) and satisfaction of attendees over 2016
  • Focused on ‘hot topic’ areas when building the online resource library (We added 301 new resources in 2017!)
  • Held initial conversations with the Dean of Social Services at Conestoga College to discuss how Umind can be used by the college which will continue in 2018

Umind Goals for 2018:

  • Increase membership by 80%
  • Continue to build our important partnership with Mohawk College; presenting to all Community Services faculty, and engaging at a student level to increase awareness of the platform and the number of those using and benefitting from Umind.
  • Continue to expand the Umind resource library – based on topics of interest brought forth by registered members and trends in the child and youth mental health realm