12 Dec Youth Central 22nd Alumni Profile: Janica Fisher
To mark our 25th Anniversary milestone Youth Central is profiling 25 of its alumni throughout the years. Youth Central’s Youth Are Awesome (YAA) program is helping out by interviewing and profiling the alumni. This article is written by Lucy Han, one of the YAA junior editors.
Janica Fisher is the Co-Founder of Humanity In Practice (H!P), a non-profit organization whose mission is to “connect people to causes”. She notes that her idea for starting her organization was largely influenced by her time at Youth Central.
When Janica first began working at Youth Central (when it was known as Child Friendly Calgary), after being a stay at home mother and previously working in the hotel business, Janica remembers how different and incredible the atmosphere of her new job was.
“To go from the corporate world to a not-for-profit organization and working with young people filled with energy, it felt really cool to be a part of that.”
She was the Program Coordinator of the Business Accreditation Program, a program where Janica would reach out to local businesses and pitch the benefits of being accredited as a “child and youth friendly” business. When businesses agreed to join, she would take a team of volunteers who would carry around a checklist and see if the organization fulfilled the criteria.
“I really loved this because I got to bring my kids to work. As a born and raised Calgarian I was always interested in making our city better. Seeing how the [Business Accreditation Program] made sure that the businesses were child friendly, I just thought that was really amazing.”
Janica recalled several fond volunteer memories when going to accredit businesses. As much as she loved getting to accredit businesses as being child friendly, there were a few occasions in which some organizations did not meet the standards. Of course with those businesses, they would have the opportunity to call for another assessment. From a restaurant using different pasta than listed on the menu and making a young volunteer upset, to a hotel placing coffee pots on low sitting nightstands which could be hazardous for toddlers, Janica saw a whole range of places that needed to make changes to create a safe environment for children and youth.
On a nostalgic note, Janica noted that the Calgary Stampede still has their accreditation sign, noting when they officially became a child friendly business. It’s placed all across the Stampede grounds and makes her smile every time she sees it.
Apart from her experiences, Janica really loved working with a program where the volunteers were typically very young, often under the age of 12.
“I’d get all these calls from moms asking ‘Can my 8 year old volunteer with you? What projects can they do?”
It was always easy to create volunteer projects for junior and senior high students but much more difficult for those in elementary. This became an area of interest and ultimately inspired Janica to start H!P.
When asked about whether the transition from leaving a job to start her own organization was nerve-wracking, Janica cheerfully responded:
“Actually it wasn’t! It was just exciting. I knew that I wanted to try something different and be my own boss! That’s the aura and magic of Youth Central: it brings us in, and we keep these passions and move on and do different things.”
Humanity in Practice now has 2000 volunteers and 1300 of them are under 12! Their youngest volunteer is just 3 years old. Janica’s organization creates offsite volunteer projects that are easily accessible. They can be done at home, school and anywhere in between. Her charitable organization has not only served the community, but it has also had an amazing impact on the volunteers.
“We did a project with youth in jail. After telling one of the volunteers how the project was going to help the community, he asked, ‘are you telling me I’m in jail and I can still make a difference?’ and I said ‘Yeah, you can!’.”
H!P operates according to the traditional school calendar, from October to May, omitting September and June as they are the busiest times for students. Each year, they create 8 different projects, with the aim to highlight a different local agency every month. Since beginning in 2005, Janica has had to opportunity to work with over 80 agencies with H!P, varying in focus from youth to homelessness to pets to food insecurity.
“Our mission at Humanity In Practice (HIP) is to connect people to causes by creating fun & simple ways to practice humanity. We offer volunteer opportunities that enable anyone, regardless of age or circumstance, the ability to make a difference.”
With a meaningful mission and compassionate character, Janica strives everyday to make our community a better place!