"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 Life" close 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

Upopolis Launches at Cape Breton Regional Hospital

Cape Breton Regional Hospital Brings a New Social Media Platform to Young Patients

Upopolis helps kids in hospital find medical information and stay safely connected to friends and other patients

Cape Breton, N.S. – Today, Cape Breton Regional Hospital paediatric patients join the Upopolis network, an innovative social media platform that helps young patients safely and securely access youth-friendly medical content, and stay connected with other patients as well as their families and friends while undergoing care.

Founded and created by Kids’ Health Links Foundation (KHLF) and powered by TELUS Health, Upopolis.com is Canada’s only private, secure and trusted online social network designed for kids and teens receiving medical care in hospitals and clinics. Upopolis differs from typical social networks by delivering therapeutic benefits for the youth who use it. These benefits include being able to access medical content written in youth-friendly language so patients can better understand their diagnosis and treatment plan; and enabling connections with other patients who share similar diagnoses through public and private discussion groups, which can lead to new friendships, shared experiences and new interests that form a broader support network for the patient.

“Our unit functions on family centered care,” says Tracy Warren-Salt, Child Life Specialist, Pediatrics Unit, Cape Breton Regional Hospital. “We try to make the unit feel as much like home as possible.  Adding Upopolis is another way we can help reduce the anxiety of a hospital stay and make it as normal and positive an experience as possible for our patients and their families.”

In addition to remaining securely and privately connected with networks outside of the hospital or treatment centre while undergoing care, Upopolis also provides patients with familiar features of social networking such as personal profiles, newsfeed, instant chat, photo uploading and creating spaces based on common interests and/or diagnoses.

“Today, over 2,500 youth in children’s hospitals across Canada have been able to access Upopolis. This is made possible by the overwhelming support of TELUS as our technology partner, as well as our many individual and corporate supporters,” said Basile Papaevangelou, chairman and founder of Kids’ Health Links Foundation. “Having Cape Breton Regional Hospital join our Upopolis family brings us one step closer to our goal of making Upopolis available across the country in every medical treatment facility that serves children and youth. We are excited for the patients to benefit from what the platform offers, and for them to take advantage of the opportunities for connection, collaboration and leadership that Upopolis brings to their hospital experience.”

KHLF and TELUS Health launched the first Upopolis program in 2007 at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. Since then it has expanded to 24 additional hospitals and health organizations across Canada. The Upopolis team and TELUS Health also work together to adapt the program to meet the specific needs of each facility, whether adding French language capabilities or information specific to mental health.

“For youth undergoing medical treatment, research shows us that the ability for them to stay connected with their support network, both inside and outside of the hospital, is a significant part of the healing process,” said Paul Lepage, President, TELUS Health. “Through Upopolis and our extensive work using innovative technology to drive better health outcomes for Canadians, we are privileged to help youth stay connected to friends, family and others facing similar health challenges, as well as learn more about their health through access to online medical information in a safe and secure environment.”

About Cape Breton Regional

Cape Breton Regional Hospital, located in Sydney, Nova Scotia, is the regional referral and trauma centre for Cape Breton Island. The hospital is home to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre, the An Cala Palliative Care unit, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and renal dialysis unit. It offers a variety of general and specialized services including medicine, surgery, obstetrics, paediatrics, diagnostic imaging, cardiology, pulmonary, neurology and clinical support services.

About TELUS Health
TELUS Health is a leader in telehomecare, electronic medical and health records, consumer health, benefits management and pharmacy management. TELUS Health solutions give health authorities, providers, physicians, patients and consumers the power to turn information into better health outcomes. For more information about TELUS Health, please visit telushealth.com.

About the Kids’ Health Links Foundation

The Kids’ Health Links Foundation was founded by Basile Papaevangelou and his daughter Christina to foster initiatives focused on alleviating the stress, isolation and loneliness for kids and teens undergoing medical care so that they might be better able to overcome traumatic medical experiences. These initiatives include: Upopolis — targeting healthy connections for paediatric patients; Upedia — providing resources supporting child life specialists; and UMIND — connecting professionals dedicated to child and youth mental health. For more information about the Kids’ Health Links Foundation please visit: kidshealthlinks.org.




For more information, please contact:

Krista Naugler
Kids’ Health Links Foundation

Lynn Gilbert
Cape Breton Regional

Jill Yetman
TELUS Media Relations

Celebrating Upopolis and 2016 -- What a year!

Upopolis has had it's biggest and best year ever! 2016 has been an exciting year of growth for KHLF's flagship program. As we approach the year's end, we celebrate the amazing accomplishments that have increased value to users, and have made it possible for Upopolis to positively impact many more children and youth across Canada.

Key successes include:

  • Welcomed 6 new hospital partners, and 5 new community partners to the Upopolis community; doubling the number of total sites benefitting from the program.
  • Expanded our youth empowerment and volunteer opportunities with a new Umentor Training Program, a Uambassador role, and a series of contests that engage youth in creative and empowering ways.
  • In collaboration with Upopolis users, developed a video entitled, Ucope – showcasing youth across Canada sharing their positive coping strategies with other youth.
  • Established the Upopolis Grief and Bereavement “island”. This is new application of the program and a separate section of Upopolis that was launched specifically for youth who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
  • Hosted a 2-day conference for key representatives from Upopolis sites. Delegates came from organizations across Canada. Important topics around youth empowerment and how to enrich site content and programming for youth were discussed.
  • Continued the development of engaging digital medical content for youth like this video, IWK Lab Mini Series, Part 1: Getting Results. Creating and curating enriching content for our Uknow library of medical related videos and resources.

With such an amazing year behind us, we are dreaming even bigger for 2017!

Here are some 2017 goals:

  • Taking our first steps outside Canada. We are currently in discussions that would take Upopolis international with launches at children's hospitals in the United States and the UK within the year.
  • Doubling the Upopolis Grief and Bereavement "island" from 5 to 10 sites. 
  • Continuing the development of engaging digital medical content for youth. Creating and curating enriched content for our Uknow library of medical related videos and resources within Upopolis.
  • Developing and executing a national Upopolis Communications and Marketing Strategy. Our aim is to raise awareness about Upopolis amoung Canadian youth, caregivers, health care professionals and potential partners; expanding the number of sites and ultimately the number of youth positively impacted by the program.

With strong momentum heading towards the new year, we need support to continue our great work and achieve our goals. Please click here to donate!