Collective Impact Network: Vancouver Friends for Life Society

The Collective Impact Network (CIN) is a Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) sponsored initiative, being co-led by PAN acting as the backbone. It consists of the nine PHSA-contracted agencies that are supporting the community-based response to HIV and hepatitis C, alongside the PHSA, and including the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and BC Women’s Hospital.

The goal of the CIN is to facilitate collaboration on priority areas that will best support people living with HIV and hepatitis C and the frontline organizations that serve them. As new agencies join us, we will feature them, and what they bring to the CIN… so you can get to know them, hear some stories and meet the people!


Vancouver Friends For Life (VFFL) Society

Jesse Brown, Executive Director

VFFL came in to being in 1994 with the constitutional mandate to offer assistance to persons living with a life-challenging illness, and to their families and friends, providing them with emotional and spiritual support. VFFL renovated a heritage home in the West End of Vancouver creating a community health centre that opened at the same time as the outbreak of the HIV epidemic. As people were suffering and being ostracized, VFFL became synonymous with HIV care while continuing to serve on a smaller scale a broader audience, primarily those living with a terminal cancer illness. Programs were developed to support those who essentially faced a death sentence.

With the discovery and affordability of HIV medications, and services that support medical and social protocols, VFFL began seeing a shift in how services were being utilized and resources impacted. Clients whose illnesses were previously considered terminal and received services for 6 – 12 months are now eligible to receive services for years as they have shifted from dying from HIV to living with HIV.

Personally, what led you into taking on your role?

In my past role as executive director at YouthCO, I led a struggling society at risk of losing its government funding and transformed it to become an evidence informed, impactful organization that retained funding from VCH and PHAC, as well as gained new funding from corporate donors, FNHA and PSHA. Having a personal and comprehensive understanding of the reality of living with HIV and community based sector, I led the merger of YouthCO and Camp Moomba which helped to strengthen the combined organization and lead to better services for young people living with HIV. As VFFL is going through a similar period of programming transition I feel proud to assist the board of directors in leading the society through this important work.

Can you tell a story that excites you about the impact your work is having?

I am very exited to lead an independent community based organization, both at YouthCO and now Vancouver Friends for Life, not hindered by a lackluster board of directors or repressive union staff oversight. I am able to work with funders, whether government, corporate, or individual, to ensure that money is going directly to support people most in need impacted by HIV and/or hep C.

What is the unique value that your agency brings to the Collective Impact Network and its priority areas?

Friends for Life operates out of a gorgeous renovated heritage home that is now a confidential and dedicated space for wellness programming reaching people living with life-interrupting health diagnosis.

So far, what have you learnt – or how has your work been enhanced – by being a part of the network?

I have realized that it is so important to trust ones instincts and to think outside the box. It is great to learn from the work of other organizations, and be reassured that the work of our agency is meaningful and important.

How can readers get involved with your agency?

Vancouver friends for life society is unique. We provide a gorgeous space for healing that cannot be replicated by other agencies in the sector. We have an abundance of beautiful wellness space that we want the other members of the CIN take advantage of. We offer discounted rates for program rentals from community based organizations working within our mission.