Except for my Lenten Season Series, I don’t usually address the public in FIRST’s communications. I’m the Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain at FIRST UNITED. I mostly work with community members and the people that FIRST serves.

But with it being the Lenten Season and with Easter coming up, I thought it was important to talk directly to our allies. Because the Downtown Eastside needs your help.

Help the Downtown Eastside – Donate Now

FIRST does a lot of things—we provide food, shelter, legal help, tax support, and a lot more—but what I can tell you about from my own perspective is our work healing.

Each day, I talk with people who come to us looking for comfort and care. I talk to people who need to heal.

A majority of people I see are Indigenous, and what I hear from them again and again is that there aren’t many spiritual care programs developed for and by Indigenous people in the Downtown Eastside.

This is what makes our work so important. We know that up to 40% of people who live in the Downtown Eastside identify as Indigenous. Having someone who can support and counsel them who is also Indigenous and who can share that experience is essential.

This is what it looks like when we say, “we’re responding to the needs of our community”.

This Easter, will you join us by making a gift of $50 or whatever is meaningful to you?


We need your help to raise $60,000 by April 30th to continue our work of helping the community heal.

Healing can look a lot of different ways, it’s not only ministry or spiritual care.

Sometimes it’s a pair of socks and a warm meal. Other times it’s finding justice in the legal system, or getting your government benefits that keep you housed and fed.

A lot of the time it’s having someone there to listen and say “how can I help”?

This is what we do at FIRST, and that’s what you can help us do by making a gift.

Your support will help us remain responsive. We knew that up to 60% of people who accessed our services self-identified as Indigenous and that we had to meet their unique needs.

Now, our ministry team is led entirely by Indigenous women.

That’s responding to need. That’s how we’re putting reconciliation into action. This Easter, that’s what you can help us do by making a donation.

For nearly 140 years we’ve been adjusting and adapting to the needs of the neighbourhood, and we need your help to make sure we can be here for another 140.

Last fall we held something called a ‘comfort retreat’ for Indian Residential School survivors. In the wake of the discoveries of unmarked children’s graves, we saw the community struggling and suffering and needing space to heal.

It was physically and spiritually exhausting for all of us. But it was an important and powerful experience too, and I know we were able to help survivors in their journey to heal.

We had never done something like that before. We were able to because our leadership believed in its value and because we had the financial ability to—because of donors like you.

This is why I’m asking for your help today. This is why FIRST needs you.

Please, become a Community Donor today. You can be a part of offering culturally-safe healing, essential services, and community connection to a struggling neighbourhood.

Our Community Donors include hundreds of like-minded folks like you, wanting to make an important impact in the Downtown Eastside.

We’re committed to standing with our neighbours in whatever way they need:

Food. Shelter. Legal help. Mail services. Overdose response. Dignity. Comfort. Care. Healing.

Thank you for reading and being an ally to FIRST. Your compassion can help us serve thousands in the Downtown Eastside and meet their most pressing needs. I hope we can count on you.


Lauren Sanders
Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain
Prairie Band Potawatomi/bodewadminwen
Kickapoo Nation of Kansas/kiikaapoa
African American/Black


P.S. You can also call us at 604.336.3047 to make your gift over the phone, or find other ways to give here!

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