Amber Anderson catches herself singing as she drives into work each day: “How lucky am I? I can’t wait to get to work. I love the people I work with – it really is about family – it is about our community and how close we are here. It’s incredible to see the people who walk through my doors, who have been broken and it takes a couple of weeks just get them to look you in the eyes and build them up. It takes them awhile to know that we are all family – we all do the same work and we all sit down and have breakfast together.”
The doors are open and welcoming at Hope Action Values Ethics (HAVE) Culinary Training Society. Since 2007 Amber has successfully led the society – a non-profit, registered charity and social enterprise operating in Vancouver’s DTES. HAVE provides food service job training and work opportunities to all individuals who experience barriers to employment. Amber’s accomplishments at HAVE were recognized with a 2021 Community Award along with the Mitchell Award of Distinction by BC Achievement. Amber was quick to share her thoughts on her team and the importance of this recognition:
“An award brings credibility and opens the door for new opportunities and improves employee engagement. An award shows we take pride in our work, and we do it well. It helps to inspire others to want to be and do better. By acknowledging excellence in the achievements, you are encouraging more of it to happen in the community. Recognizing the good work being done is setting a standard and inspiring others to follow. I am especially grateful to my amazing team at HAVE. I want to dedicate this award to them. Without all their hard work HAVE would not be what it is today.”
Using food to help people, to build a community has been part of Amber’s life for more than 20 years. Her distinctive style creates an equal playing field for all who engage with HAVE. Inclusion drives her instruction and her ability to build people up, support and help them defines the intent of the Mitchell Award which signals out those whose leadership empowers others. She is a keen listener who continually asks her students and staff what they need and then encourages them to collaborate with each other to land on the best solution. Her unique and selfless approach involves the full participation of those she leads: “They keep me honest, they keep me inspired, they just make me want to do better!”
COVID has changed HAVE’s program delivery as it pivoted to provide community meals through its catering arm while pausing the culinary training programs. A peer program has been initiated where individuals unable to work full-time come to work two or three days a week and progressively increase their time at work. Building on the emotional capacity and confidence of her students and seeing them become whole is a marker for Amber of the program’s success and fuels her inspiration.
Amber continues to have a vision for the future. Her aim is to grow the current programs and develop a stronger connection for seniors. Noting that there are no safe spaces for seniors in the DTES, Amber’s goal is to begin serving breakfast, lunch and dinner while training those seniors who are interested in food services at the same time. The pandemic has revealed seniors are falling between the cracks within this community and Amber is keen to fill that need.
It is her personal calling and the daily mission of HAVE to “rebuild lives, reconnect families and strengthen its diverse community.”
Thank you, Amber, for your remarkable leadership and congratulations on your recognition! It’s a privilege for BC Achievement to shine a light on your achievements.
BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.