Vital People: PISE community grant part of record $4.9M given out by Victoria Foundation

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With his runners pounding the track at PISE, the Pacific Institute for Sport Education in Saanich, Daniel Zewdu is doing what he loves best.

“Running, for me, it’s my happy place,” Daniel says, grinning from ear to ear. You’re working hard every day to achieve your dreams and goals, so running is making me who I am.”

The marathon and long-distance runner came to Canada less than a year ago and is so happy to now call Victoria home.

“I’m a newcomer here, born in Sudan, my parents are from Ethiopia and moved from Sudan to Israel when I was 11 years old,” Daniel explains. “I lived there for 16 years.”

Daniel, who competes internationally, recently started training at PISE.

“My dream is to be an Olympian and to represent Canada to bring a medal for the country, and my goal is now to make it to Team Canada to qualify and to represent Canada for the world championships.”

Daniel’s training wouldn’t be possible without a community grant from the Victoria Foundation focused on belonging and reconciliation.

“Our way of addressing Truth and Reconciliation is working with the indigenous community, with the youth in school programs, physical literacy and providing a key, a pathway to a healthy future,” explains PISE CEO Robert Bettauer. “Belonging includes accessibility. It’s inclusion. It’s where everyone can feel comfortable.”

The Victoria Foundation just distributed a record $4.9 million through its 2023 Community Grants Program to local nonprofits — a doubling of funding since 2018.

“All the organizations that applied are doing amazing work in our community,” says Tracy Cullen, the Victoria Foundation’s manager of strategic initiatives. “We were able to support 199 organizations through the generous support of our donors, and they’re making a difference every day.”

From food security and help for at-risk youth, housing programs, and addiction treatment to arts and culture, the community grant recipients are filling some critical gaps in our community.

“The nonprofit sector touches everyone, every day, and really makes our quality of life better,” Tracy says.

At PISE, where grants for physical literacy programs and other initiatives have been a game-changer over the years, it’s already making a difference.

“It’s just going to allow us to continue to grow and build our capacity to offer more programs to more youth, to work with more communities, equities seeking communities, so it’s just a great partnership, and it just represents what Victoria is all about,” says Robert.

Daniel feels like he now belongs here, thanks to PISE.

“To embrace me, really, from the first day I step here and I really feel all the love, and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he says.

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