- Faculty & Staff
- About FASS
- Departments and programs
- Applied legal studies
- Cognitive science
- French Cohort
- Gender, sexuality, and women's studies
- Global Asia
- Global Humanities
- Graduate liberal studies
- Indigenous languages
- Indigenous studies
- International studies
- Labour studies
- Political science
- Public policy
- Social data analytics
- Urban studies
- World languages & literatures
- Future Students
- Current Students
- Undergraduate Students
- Advising and Resources
- Connect with Arts Central
- Plan your Program
- Career Experience
- Student Life
- FASS Forward
- FASS 200 Writing Right: Strategies for effective revision
- FASS 204 Communicating in Conflict and Negotiation
- FASS 205 Finding Voice: Public Speaking for Social Change
- FASS 206 Creating Effective Teams
- FASS 207 Cultural Humility: Understanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- FASS 208 Introduction to Personal Financial Planning for Students
- FASS 210 Language Network Science
- FASS 211 Data Literacy and the City
- FASS 212 Introduction to Social Work Practice: Change Agency
- FASS 214 Exploring EDI: This Is My Story
- INDG 305 Treaties in Canada
- Graduate Students
- Undergraduate Students
- FASS at Surrey
- Make meaning
- Next steps for new students
Community, Alumni, Psychology, Departments & programs
Empowering change: psychology alumna tackles homelessness in DTES
An encounter when she was a teenager volunteering in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) left a lasting impression on psychology alumna, Christina Wong, who has now dedicated her career to breaking the cycle of poverty in the community.
An elderly member of the DTES community politely declined Wong's care package and voiced that what he simply needed was a haircut for a job interview.
The encounter was an eye-opener for Wong and it inspired her to form Employ to Empower (ETE), a non-profit start-up dedicated to equipping low-income individuals in the DTES with the skills, resources, and confidence to find meaningful work in either traditional employment or entrepreneurship.
In just one year since its inception in 2018, Wong's entrepreneurial venture has gained widespread recognition for its work. Most recently, ETE was awarded the Top Small Business Award in the Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition last month.
On top of that, Wong secured a $1 million donation from the founder of Sutton Realty, Scott Shaw. The funding will go towards the start-up's DTES Second Chances Incubator as loan capital to support individuals in their entrepreneurial ventures.
Wong, who specialized in disability applied behaviour analysis (ABA), credits her SFU education for teaching her the skills and knowledge to connect with vulnerable populations like the DTES community.
"My studies at SFU have allowed me to build trusting, humorous, and meaningful relationships with Employ to Empower’s clients. I learned the importance of listening to understand, being judgment-free, and creating space for hard but necessary conversations."
Wong's entrance to the entrepreneurial world started in 2014 with a pop-up clothing store concept called Street Store Vancouver.
The success of the pop-up store gave Wong the extra push to leave her job to wholeheartedly pursue her lifelong passion to help others.
"One thing I would like to emphasize is that we don't need a business degree to start our own non-profit/business. The game changer was having a large and vast appetite to learn."
Wong attributes ETE's success to SFU's Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection which introduced her to Tim Ames, executive director of the Plan Institute, who guided her through the entrepreneurial world and the complexities of running a business operations from the ground up.
As Wong reflects on her journey from being a student to now running her own start-up, she has this piece of advice—"get comfortable being uncomfortable. That space outside our comfort zone offers a tremendous opportunity for growth."
"Exercise curiosity by asking questions and you might just get a piece of insight that you wouldn’t have gotten if you hadn't asked."