Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr helps out during a public event held Jan. 6 by WoMen Rise at the Khalsa Diwan Society. The group holds another event this Sunday, Jan. 27. (Submitted photo)

Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr helps out during a public event held Jan. 6 by WoMen Rise at the Khalsa Diwan Society. The group holds another event this Sunday, Jan. 27. (Submitted photo)

WoMen Rise aims to steer youth away from gangs

Abbotsford group holds activities to empower families and make change

A group formed in Abbotsford last year is taking a positive approach to stemming gang violence and other issues in the community.

WoMen Rise (formerly WoMen on the Rise) is organized by a group of women, men and youth from all walks of life – some of whom have sons and daughters involved in drugs and gangs – who want to deter young people from going down the wrong path.

The group is unified by one main purpose: “Every life is precious, and we need to make every effort to preserve it and reach its full potential.”

A director of the group, who didn’t want her name published, said the goal of WoMen Rise is to engage youth in positive activities, raise awareness of various programs for youth, and to empower families to voice their concerns about gangs, drugs and alcohol.

The director said the roots of the group go back about six years, when issues first began cropping up with families – mainly in the South Asian community – who were concerned about what was happening with their sons and feeling powerless to make change.

Connections between families began to develop, and that culminated last year in the formation of a more organized group, many of whom were particularly concerned about the loss of young men to the gang conflict.

“They were saying, ‘We don’t want this happening. We need to clean up our streets. This is a community problem.’ ”

WoMen Rise held its first rally last September at Dave Kandal Elementary, where the group collected donations for the In It Together gang-prevention program, which announced it was losing federal funding.

RELATED: Funding is running out for Abbotsford gang-prevention program

The group has since had meetings with former Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich, current chief Mike Serr, Mayor Henry Braun and others to discuss ways they can collaborate.

Other groups they have worked with include Abbotsford Community Services, the school district, Wake Up Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Police gang crime unit.

WoMen Rise was also among those who participated in a forum held in December at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

RELATED: Rally cry in Abbotsford against gang killings

Among the initiatives the group is now working on are a citizens’ patrol, a community kitchen, a mentorship program and “mindfulness meditation” sessions.

They have also held two sessions this year that involved kirtan (music), simran (a form of meditation), food and a discussion with RCMP officer Baltej Singh Dhillon. More than 1,000 people attended each session.

The third and final one takes place this Sunday, Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Kalgidhar Gurdwara Sahib, 30640 Blueridge Drive.

Regular “mindfulness meditation” sessions continue every Saturday at the Kalgidhar Gurdwara and every Sunday at the Heritage Gur Sikh Temple (33089 South Fraser Way) from 9 to 10 a.m. Everyone is welcome.

Visit “WoMenRiseAbbotsford” on Facebook or contact womenrise2018@gmail.com for more information or to volunteer for any of the activities.

 

Pamphlets on youth and gangs were available at an event held Jan. 6 by the WoMen Rise group in Abbotsford. Another similar event takes place Sunday, Jan. 27. (Submitted photo)

Pamphlets on youth and gangs were available at an event held Jan. 6 by the WoMen Rise group in Abbotsford. Another similar event takes place Sunday, Jan. 27. (Submitted photo)