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Learn stick shift, change the world

Last Updated Feb 21, 2019 at 3:21 pm EST

It’s the beginning of June and about two dozen people have gathered inside the MaRS Centre on College Street.

To the uninitiated, it looks like any other networking event. But participants here have donned tags listing the most random and sometimes absurd skills.

One has offered to assemble an ‘80s playlist and fill in as a recreational volleyball player. Another will teach a novice chef how to prepare Thai mango salad.

Christine Ho and Kevin Tsoi are milling about in the crowd. This is the pair that came up with the idea for Well of Change last summer when they wanted to volunteer, but were ill-equipped to build houses or work in soup kitchens.

They figured people who wouldn’t normally donate their time or money might use a marketplace of skills where all proceeds go to charity.

“The idea came from us thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t we just do what we’re good at and donate the money back?’ And we thought, ‘Wow. What if everyone could do that?’” Ho said.

“The past trend has always been to volunteer every Saturday at the Salvation Army. People don’t have time for that anymore … But when they’re free for a full day they can say, ‘I’m available. I can come garden at your place and raise money for charity.’”

Ho and Tsoi organized the skills drive at MaRS last month to bring volunteers and donors together and officially launch their website. On it, a seller will post a service and wait for a buyer to sign up. The proceeds are automatically sent to any registered Canadian charity the seller chooses.

With plans to build on their base of about 200 users and expand across the province and to San Francisco and the Netherlands, Ho and Tsoi hope to raise $6 million by 2013.

It’s a lofty goal, but with volunteers invested in the services they’re offering — everything from dream interpretation to a ride in a convertible Porsche — Ho believes people are more likely to make a habit of giving.

“It’s not just a cash donation. It’s not just a ‘Donate Now’ because of Haiti,” she said.

“I want this to feel like it’s part of your lifestyle, so it doesn’t feel like it’s being forced.”

For more information on Well of Change or to sign up, click here.