Sandwich for a Story comes to Victoria

Volunteer Praheeth Bharadwaj (left) and Victoria community manager Alex Kim(right)  for Sandwich for Story are hoping to fight the stigma around homelessness.  –Nikki Koutsochilis (photo)

Volunteer Praheeth Bharadwaj (left) and Victoria community manager Alex Kim(right) for Sandwich for Story are hoping to fight the stigma around homelessness.
–Nikki Koutsochilis (photo)

Calgary-based organization Sandwich for a Story (SFS) has now come to Victoria. Started three years ago by two university friends, Sam Sawchuck and Evan Beck, the organization attempts to break down stigmas about homeless populations by exchanging a sandwich for a story from people living on the streets. The stories shared are then recorded and either blogged, or released as a video on their website.

“We’re an organization that wants to break down barriers between the homeless and the rest of society through simple acts of engagement,” said Alex Kim, SFS Victoria community manager. “Basically, we want to put the humanity aspect back into the homeless.”

Kim recounted his experience getting involved with the organization and how his views changed from his time working in a liquor store in Calgary to wanting to help the people he served every day.

“It started because Sam, one of the cofounders, had some experience with start up companies,” said Kim. “His brother was affiliated with Uber [taxi service] and since he had the expertise, he figured why not put this to good use.”

In an interview with CTV Calgary, Beck said, “We started doing this because we noticed that there’s a huge stigma and stereotype surrounding homelessness that we don’t think is true.” Beck stressed that someone will always be given a sandwich, regardless of whether or not they wish to be recorded, or even share a story.

Grant McKenzie, the director of communications of Our Place said, “Anything that helps people living on the street is great, especially during the winter when it’s cold.” He also supported the fact that each person would get a sandwich whether they participated or not. Our Place is a downtown Victoria community centre that strives to aid vulnerable individuals. Last month alone, Our Place provided 58 000 meals to those in need.

Thinking along the same lines, both Kim and McKenzie made it clear that homelessness is simply a circumstance that can happen to anyone. “Attitudes can be changed by just one story that says, ‘gee, that could be me, or my sister or my brother.’ Every individual’s story can touch people in different ways,” said McKenzie. “Some of us are just one paycheque away from being there.”

Though the exact future of SFS is uncertain, Kim believes that if the organization gains a large enough following, it is a trend that could catch on essentially anywhere. “Everyone has a story to tell and regardless of who you are, you’re going to know someone in this unfortunate circumstance,” he said. “By getting awareness out there and putting the humanity back into this whole entire concept then it will help those people out in general.”

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