Sparking Change Starts With Seeing The Need

Filed Under: Spark Grants,Vibrant Community - Posted @ 12:07pm

PHOTO: Families Unlimited Network Food Bank in University Place


Seventeen year-old Caleb Kamalu was volunteering at  F.U.N Food Bank in his hometown of University Place when he noticed food bank staff struggling to explain something to a customer. The woman had filled up her cart with more than the allotted amount of items, and a staff member was trying to explain that she needed to put some back. Caleb recognized it was a hard thing to tell someone, “It’s always a delicate balance because you know they need the food, but we have to make sure there is enough for everyone else as well.”

What made the interaction even more challenging was that the woman didn’t speak English. She spoke Russian. The staff member didn’t speak Russian.  Caleb watched as the woman, “started trying to move her cart away and it was clear she was really upset. It was just one of those fight or flight situations and that’s just not what anyone wants.”

Caleb has seen communication issues like this happen all the time. He’s even been in the middle of them himself, “It really is a big barrier to being able to help people out or explain what’s available to them, and I just thought…this is something that can be fixed.”

Caleb is one of seven individuals recently selected as a GTCF Spark Grant recipient. Spark Grants are micro-grants, up to $1,500, designed to bring people-powered ideas to life in Pierce County, sparking positive social and neighborhood change through the efforts of grass-roots leadership. Each of the most recent Spark grantees have taken the initiative to meet a need they’ve seen in the community.

Caleb’s plan for sparking change at local food banks is to create a multi-language “phrase book” that incorporates numerous translations of common terms or phrases that food bank staff and volunteers would need to use while helping food bank shoppers. The idea is to make the phrase book available as a free resource for food banks everywhere.

When it comes to sparking community change, Caleb says it just starts with recognizing the needs in front of you, “If you’re struggling with a problem, there are likely others who have struggled with that same problem. So, if you take the initiative to try to solve it, not only will you help others, but those same people who’ve had that problem will often help you fix it; and there are lots of other people who will be willing to get involved as well.”


PHOTO: Winter 2018 Spark Grant Recipients on the balcony at GTCF offices, January 30th, 2019


Winter 2018 Spark Grant Recipients

Raising Girls – Sharon Chambers-Gordon

Provides necessary hygiene products to under-served girls in the South Sound making it possible to eliminate humiliation, promote pride, and share love to hundreds of girls in our community.

Now You’re Speaking My Language – Caleb Kamalu

Increasing food bank accessibility for non- English speakers through translation work and bilingual volunteers.

Stigmatized – Charity Reed

An opportunity for community members who struggle with mental illness to gather in a stigma-free zone and express themselves artistically. A safe space will be provided for gathering, sharing ideas, creating and displaying work. 

Stewart Elementary Career Curiosity Fair – Chelsea Orvella

A unique career fair geared toward young children and their parents to spark interest in a diversity of jobs and different career paths after high school.

Mataala – Pale Lotu & Matavai Asaeli

The project is to build student led Polynesian Clubs in different high schools that work alongside us to provide, up to, but not limited to: resources for education, food, emotional and motivational support, and curriculum accountability, to build a foundation that will support them in any path they choose to take after high school.

VT Radio – Christian Lopez-Moreno

An online radio station with a basic studio in Hilltop Tacoma that produces several live and diverse shows in Spanish, as well as 3 recorded shows, with different types of music in English and Spanish.  VT radio transmits 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, providing the opportunity for members of our Pierce County community to create audio content, learn radio communication skills, and to announce events occurring in the community.

Applications for the next round of Spark Grants are open now through April 30th.  For more information or to apply click here or contact Janece Levien