SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 16, 2015) - One in three kids in BC starts kindergarten with odds stacked against their success - in the classroom and in later life. In Surrey's Guildford West neighbourhood, this number is worse: it's almost one in two.

United Way of the Lower Mainland is determined to change these odds and ensure more kids in Guildford West start school ready to succeed. United Way Avenues of Change is a bold early childhood initiative designed to tackle child vulnerability on a neighbourhood level. Research shows kids thrive when their neighbourhoods thrive.

United Way has committed to investing $1.2 million over the next three years into this initiative. Today, $400,000 was invested. These funds will act as a catalyst for the community and be used to implement neighbourhood-specific strategies tailor-made for the community to change outcomes for vulnerable kids including:

  • Support on the go - mental wellness support
  • Literacy ambassadors - early childhood literacy support
  • Health promotion ambassadors - health promotion
  • Early Childhood and Family Check-In - a screening program that helps track children's developmental progress.

"When we invest in children, we invest in the future," said the Honourable Amrik Virk, M.L.A. and Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services, whose riding - Surrey-Tynehead - includes a large portion of the Guildford West neighbourhood. "I applaud the United Way of the Lower Mainland for their innovative and courageous approach to ensure children in Guildford get the best chance to succeed in life."

"Surrey is the fastest growing city in BC with one of the youngest populations; in fact, one-third of Surrey's residents are under the age of 19," said Mayor Linda Hepner. "Investing in our children and families is essential to ensuring a healthy, more sustainable and prosperous community for tomorrow. This is why we actively support United Way in this important early childhood initiative."

"From the start, United Way Avenues of Change has been a deeply collaborative neighbourhood project," said Michael McKnight, President and CEO of United Way of the Lower Mainland. "We knew that in order to tackle a complex issue like child vulnerability, we needed to bring together people and partners at a local level who are passionate about ensuring children and families thrive."

Key partners in the initiative are the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC; the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC); the Children's Partnership Surrey-White Rock, which consists of the City of Surrey, Fraser Health Authority, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, School District 36, Surrey Libraries; DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society and Options Community Services Society who will manage the implementation of the Action Strategies in Guildford West; and the residents of Guildford West.

About United Way of the Lower Mainland

United Way supports children, families and seniors in need. We are leaders in our field developing partnerships, tracking progress, and bringing the right people together to initiate change. UWLM funds 150 agencies throughout the Lower Mainland to deliver more than 300 programs and services. To learn more, visit

Contact Information:

Media contact: United Way of the Lower Mainland
Jennifer Young
Cell: 604.309.3937