Bellingham Youth Philanthropy Program Seeks New Members

Guest blogger Nikhil Harle shares his insights and experience with the Bellingham Youth Philanthropy Program.

In the last two years, it has been a joy to work alongside my fantastic peers and the wonderful staff members of the Whatcom Community Foundation as part of the Bellingham Youth Philanthropy Program (BYPP). The program started as an environmental fund created by two Sehome High School students in 2008 as their senior project. The duo raised money through a fundraiser in which they biked over 1000 miles around Washington State. The purpose of the Bellingham Youth Philanthropy Program is to establish a strong connection between the youth of Whatcom County, our community and the environment through the means of charitable giving.

As a part of this program I have learned so much about the environment of Whatcom County. During our grant-making round last year, we were able to give away $10,000 in grants to worthy organizations making a difference in Whatcom County, I learned about all of these amazing organizations and programs that I had never heard of that make a difference in the place where I live. It was eye opening, as well as gratifying, to gain a deeper knowledge of the great work done every day by great local organizations. We were even able to gain a more direct knowledge by participating in a work party with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, in which we worked to clear the banks of a salmon stream of invasive species.

Through my participation in BYPP, I was also able to learn and reinforce some crucial skills to be successful in any environment. From the teachings of Susanne Pavlyuk, the program coordinator, I was able to learn facilitation skills and I was given the opportunity to practice these newly learned skills in a couple of our meetings. Also, being in BYPP taught me how to handle responsibility and gave me a basic yet important skillset to succeed in any working environment. The skills I learned included shaking hands while greeting someone, being an active and collaborative member of a discussion, responding to important emails promptly, how to take notes in a meeting, etc. All of these are very basic skills, but important skills nevertheless. BYPP provided me with the opportunity to practice, and in some cases, develop these skills.

If I had to sum up my BYPP experience in a couple of words … I could not do so, because there are no two words that can express what I have gained from this program. In the past two years, I have become more informed about our community and environment, I have learned critical skills to succeed in any work environment, I have had the honor to work among great people, and I have done this all while participating in philanthropy, by helping our environment and those in our community who are less fortunate than myself. It’s a win-win-win-win situation. Plus, helping others makes one feel good. For any high schoolers who happen upon this blog, and are reading these words, I have one thing to tell you: apply for this program next year. The application period for this year has just ended. You will have a blast while helping others and our environment and learning about philanthropy. Plus, there are snacks at the meetings 🙂