Why an investment in young leaders is an investment in community

When Chayanika Lutes heads to the 2017 Community Foundations Conference this May in Ottawa-Gatineau, it will have been 13 years since the first time she attended. This spring, Chayanika is attending as a Senior Associate at the Community Foundation of Ottawa, but back in 2004—when the event took place in Quebec City—she was just a senior at a Winnipeg high school.

“I loved helping people and loved volunteering,” she says of herself back then, explaining why she joined the Youth in Philanthropy program run by The Winnipeg Foundation. As one of the sixteen chairs on the inter-school committee, she was sent to the Quebec City national conference, and it turned out to be a transformative three days. “I had only known The Winnipeg Foundation, but going to the conference opened my eyes to the full scope of community foundations across the country,” she said, adding that she’s still close with some of the other youth she travelled with.

The experience clearly left an impression on Chayanika. After attaining a post-graduate degree in economics, she was working in the private sector in Ottawa, but still dreamed about a career that involved philanthropy. “I thought, I wonder if they have a foundation in Ottawa?” They did.

Today, at the Community Foundation of Ottawa, Chayanika harnesses her education to analyze and package data that helps her team make evidence-based decisions related to granting and which direction the foundation should go.

As Chayanika comes full circle and prepares to attend this year’s national conference in Ottawa-Gatineau, she encourages foundations across Canada to consider sending youth representatives. “If you’re forward thinking, you’ll realize that you’re creating leaders that will go on to do multiple things over many years,” she said. “Invest in them and you’ll be investing in the future of your city.”

This year’s Community Foundations Conference in Ottawa-Gatineau takes place May 11-13.

Photo credit: Andrea Dicks at AMDPhotography

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