COLUMN: ‘Welcome’ is a community effort

I recall many years ago when I was in North Vancouver getting gas. I walked to the attendant and struck up a conversation.

  • Aug. 8, 2015 4:00 p.m.

On the Spot by Ken Herar

I recall many years ago when I was in North Vancouver getting gas. I walked to the attendant and struck up a conversation.

I asked him how long he was living up here and how beautiful it was.

He said, “A few months, and just recently moved from Abbotsford.”  I replied that was sure a big move. He said, “ Yes, we lived in a neighborhood where no one would speak to me or my children and we wanted to get out.”

I knew exactly what he was saying. I shared with him how sorry I was to hear this and wished him all the best on his move.

Many of our neighborhoods in Abbotsford are culturally diverse, whether you live on the west or east side. Some are more diverse than others, and building relationships at times is not an easy task.

One barrier that is often noted is language. There are many ways to gesture or acknowledge people in our neighborhoods like waving our hands or a smile if you don’t speak English as a first language.

I have even heard remarks such as, “I am not going to go to that side of town,  or “That is the bad part of town.” I cannot tell you how hurt I feel when I hear of stories such as this.

We are all part of one community, regardless of the side of town you reside in. So many of us try so hard to make our diverse communities feel welcomed, but it takes an entire community effort at all levels. We are also so fortunate that we can have such a conversation in Canada to improve any such cultural barriers that may exist between people.

Susan Federspiel, a community developer with the City of Abbotsford, said, “The City of Abbotsford supports neighbourhood events by providing one-to-one assistance for residents wishing to hold an inclusive event. The community developer is able to provide guidance to help  ensure that your event is inclusive and welcoming for neighbours of all backgrounds. Neighbourhood organizers might also want to consider borrowing the Neighbourhood Spirit toolkit – a loaner kit with items such as tables, chairs, pop-up tents, barbecue, games and much more.”

Some guidelines do apply, so to find out if your event is eligible check out  abbotsford.ca/neighbourhoods and look for the Neighbourhood Spirit Toolkit Guidelines

To contact the community developer, call Susan Federspiel at 604-557-1464 or email commdevelopment@abbotsford.ca.

On behalf of the District of Mission, Bronwen Sutherland said, “The cultural resources commission realized that there were two areas of life that resonated with  Mission residents. A lack of connection with their neighborhoods, and public safety were the top concerns in an otherwise wonderful community.

“The CRC has initiated a program named Good Neighbors in an attempt to address these issues. The program will assist residents in creating events in their own communities such as block parties, neighborhood enhancement projects, barbecues and other activities designed to bring communities together.

“On Saturday, Sept. 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Second Avenue in downtown Mission, the CRC will be hosting a block party with food, activities and information about the program.

“We hope that we can inspire others to pick up the mantle in their own communities and we will have the tools on hand to make it happen. We hope to make 2016 the year of the good neighbours.”

KenHerar@gmail.com