Employ To Empower

About Us.

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Our Story.

Every December, Vancouver hosts the Street Store, an annual free, dignified shopping experience for Downtown Eastside residents called the Street Store. This special event was started in 2014 by Christina Wong and takes place in the heart of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood at the intersection of Columbia and Hastings. During her time leading and organizing the Street Store, and through her conversations with the community, she gained a better understanding of the real challenges and experiences of people living and working in the Downtown Eastside.

In 2017, Christina was at the Street Store when she met a four-year-old boy named Justin, who would effectively change the course of her life forever.

Upon opening the doors of the Street Store Justin came running in, full of energy and liveliness, excited about the possibility of finding a toy for Christmas. After spotting a guitar in Christina’s hands, he charged at her full force and immediately began playing with the strings and trying to make music. Later on, Christina had the opportunity to meet the boy’s parents, who expressed grief that they could not properly provide for their son, due to lack of a stable income.

It was in that moment that the idea for Employ to Empower was born and Christina’s quest to positively impact the community through employment and entrepreneurship began. The following month, Christina quit her full-time job and with the support of co-founder, Stephanie Chan, officially launched Employ to Empower.

Our Mission.

We focus on providing long term, personalized support.

Our mission is to empower individuals who face work and social barriers to cultivate community connections through entrepreneurship and self-advocacy opportunities.

Our Vision.

Every person has the opportunity to achieve long term self-reliance, economic well-being, and a sense of belonging.

Our Annual Report.

Read our 2020-2021 Annual Report

Our Values.


Compassion comes first.


Genuine human connection.


Empower to build self-confidence.

Hand Up

Offer a hand up, not a hand out


Sustainable long-term effect.

Social Impact

Create social impact with everything we do.

What We Do.

Employ to Empower takes a compassion-focused, holistic approach to empowering residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through development, entrepreneurship, and advocacy.


Our development program offers soft skills and basic business fundamental courses. It also connects residents to essential resources, such as counselling or housing.

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Our entrepreneurship program supports residents and their business aspirations through personalized weekly mentorship sessions and access to affordable microloans.

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We actively engage in advocacy work in the broader community and are committed to bringing about positive social change for the Downtown Eastside and it’s residents.

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Meet The Team.

Employ to Empower is a team of qualified, self starting, and adaptable professionals who put compassion first, and are committed to creating positive social change in the Downtown Eastside community.

Scott Shaw

Co-Founder @ Sutton Realty

Breanne Lehodey

Associate @ BLG Law Group

Adam Lorant

Investor @ Magellan Angel Partners

Christina Wong

Christina Wong

ED @ Employ To Empower

Christina Wong

Christina Wong

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Christina brings a diverse skillset to the team, reflecting a combination of: 14 years of volunteering in the DTES community, ten years of sponsorship experience, a major in Psychology from SFU and eight years working with people who face disabilities. She is very fortunate to have an incredibly team to help achieve a mission that is much greater than us - cultivating sustainable change for entrepreneurs who face barriers. Recently, she was nominated for the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction in the Non-Profit category and a recipient for the Globe and Mail Top 50 Business Changemaker recipients in Canada.

Charissa Landicho

Charissa Landicho

Head of Advocacy Programming

Charissa is the Head of Advocacy Programs at Employ to Empower works directly with a team of events specialists to curate events that focus on destigmatization, education and awareness of the entrepreneurs in the program. She is also the lead for our annual Vancouver Street Store event.

Truman Wong

Head of Development Programs

Truman is an active champion in the community and is leading our development programming for our basic business fundamentals and ideation courses at Employ to Empower.

Hosea Cheung

Media Relations Coordinator

Hosea supports the external relations strategy by communicating ETE's story to the broader community through impactful storytelling.

Taban Yazdani

Bookkeeper + CPA

Taban helps us keep our financials in order so that the organization can continue to make a long term impact.

Amanda Mah

Social Media Coordinator and Specialist Mentor

Amanda is a digital marketer who is supporting the Brand and Marketing team with social media. She also supports the Development Course by teaching digital literacy to entrepreneurs who face work and social barriers.

Mary Pullen

Mary Pullen

Program Evaluator

Mary brings over 15 years of program evaluation experience to the ETE team and is currently working on developing success metrics for ETE's programming to ensure it's program efficiency.

Juliette Wong

Juliette Wong

Event Specialist

Juliette supports the advocacy team in planning event logistics. She enjoys working to make advocacy events safe and inclusive spaces, and loves continually learning from the ETE community. She was inspired to join ETE by the team's passion for community building.

Dori Julian

Dori Julian

Event Specialist

As an events specialist (volunteer recruitment), Dori recruits and manages all volunteers for advocacy events at ETE. She has recruited and coordinated various teams, and has been at the heart of organizing events, as well as leading communications and marketing initiatives for various organizations in Montreal and Vancouver. Dori’s love for collaboration and team-building with the end goal of strengthening and uplifting the community is what inspired her to get involved with ETE.

Laura Hemmerling

Laura Hemmerling

Facilitator Assistant

Laura has over 20 years of experience in business and people development, and is currently studying to become a counsellor. The focus on collaborating and community involvement is what drew her to join the team at ETE. She looks forward to bringing her interest in empowering people through capacity building to the role of Course Coordinator.

Joanna Li

Joanna Li

Course Facilitator

Joanna Li (she/her), Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joanna Li [pronounced LEE] has over 20 years of experience working with diverse individuals and groups in academic, business, healthcare and community settings. Her areas of interest include capacity building, member engagement, community development and organizational change. She founded Connective Learning Co. in 2017, working with leaders to build individual and collective capacity by transforming how they interact and work together to solve problems, drive innovation and shape their shared future.
Joanna is a lifelong learner who recently completed her thesis research on engagement, learning and organizational change and achieved her Master of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University in 2019. Reading and crocheting are her treasured hobbies of rejuvenation.
Joanna lives and works on the unceded traditional lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Janice OBriain

ED @ Venture Connections

Dr. Sarah Lubik

ED @ Charles Chang Institute

Alisha Masongsong

Director @ Exchange Inner City

Atif Saad

Founder @ Co-llective Marketing

Sharon Makina

Big Sisters of BC

Haley Grewal

Upstation VC

Natasha Dion

Natasha Dion

Senior Designer @ Co-llective Marketing

Amy Hemmerling

Amy Hemmerling

Cillema Film / Videography

Alex Bocajj

Alex Bocajj

Cillema Film / Videography

Len Pierre

Cultural Competency Advisor

Len is supporting Employ to Empower's leadership team with integrating indigenous worldview in to ETE's programming.

Vivian Chan

Chief Channel Officer Company at NexTech AR Solutions

Vivian is an advisor with ETE and supports with providing guidance around marketing, leadership and human resources.

Tim Ames

Executive Director @ Plan Institute

Trish Mandewo

Trish Mandewo

Mentor in Residence

Trish Mandewo is a multi award-winning serial entrepreneur, Coquitlam City Councillor, Author, and Diversity & Inclusion strategist. She is the Founder and CEO of Synergy Executive & Boards Consulting Group, a company that supports the advancement of Black, Indigenous and Visible minority subject matter experts and senior-level executives seeking to take their voices and expertise to the boardroom, c-suite. She also co-founded Women’s Collaborative Hub, a nonprofit whose mandate is to empower women and girls.
She shares her knowledge through public speaking and as a Mentor in Residence for SFU Charles Chang Institute of Entrepreneurship. I am inspired by the impact that E2E has on the DTE community and by the leadership, passion and drive that Christina has.

Our Corporate

We take a well-rounded approach to help members of the DTES move towards self-sufficiency and we ask our corporate partners to join us to do the same. Through the support of our partners, we are able to not only keep supporting residents in the DTES but also able to raise awareness for DTES residents. We allow our corporate supporter come in any vertical they feel comfortable supporting with. Interested in supporting us? Click below to learn about all our offerings.

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Our Supporters

Exclusive Media Partner

Content Production Partner

Our Resource Partners.

Our team has many skills so we’re able to offer a wide array of services. Far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Contia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Booksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean.

Have Questions?

Contact us for answers to all of your questions or to sign up for our services! We're always available to answer any of your questions or provide you with support if needed.

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