Our day started at Rick Hansen High School in Abbotsford, BC with our guest speaker, Damian George, a community health worker from the Mission Friendship Centre and a Sto:lo community member, leading the students, facilitators, teachers, and project staff in a land acknowledgement ceremony. Damian spoke of the importance of knowing our ancestral languages and histories whether we were South Asian, Indigenous, or from other backgrounds.
After the land acknowledgement and a short project introduction, our facilitators led students in community-building exercises including a rousing game of “Rock, Paper, Scissor, Cheer!”, where students got to cheer for each other. The students were then spit up into their “core” facilitation groups where they were introduced to their facilitators. This year we are joined by five experienced facilitators: Isaac Oomen, Ayendri Perera, Jasmine Bassi, Tahia Ahmed, and Eloginy Tharmendran. Isaac and Eloginy are facilitators returning from the 2014 implementation of the project in Vancouver. They bring their experience of having delivered similar workshops from the previous program. The others are new to the project but contribute their extensive facilitation experience to the Next Generation workshops.
Before lunch, the students were visited by representatives from their five community partner organizations, both in person and over Skype. This year students have decided to partner with the Vivek Educational Foundation, Amnesty International, RefugeAid, Global Medic, and the Abbotsford Food Bank. Students discovered information about their community partner, the work that they do, and how they could support their community partners. Following this, we had a delicious Indian lunch from a local restaurant – Gian’s. The butter chicken was a highlight for many students!
Another highlight of our day was the help provided by the student organizing committee in helping to run the project smoothly. The committee supported project staff by helping us set up for lunch, taking materials to classes, and distributing snacks. They also had a chance to practice their photography, filming, interviewing, and blog writing skills as they were also our “media team”.
In the afternoon, the facilitators, with the support of their teacher partners led all the students in a workshop around racism, prejudice, and discrimination. This brought up many important conversations and our facilitators definitely led many courageous conversations between the students. The afternoon workshop was followed by our keynote speaker of the day, Naveen Girn.
Naveen Girn is a cultural researcher and community engagement specialist whose interests center on Vancouver’s South Asian community, intercultural history and curation. Naveen talked to the students about links between communities – Indigenous, South Asian, and East Asian in Vancouver. It was an excellent wrap up to our day as Naveen spoke to students not only of racism but how communities banded together to fight racism.
To end the day, we asked students to share the #MosaicNextGen messages they had created in their afternoon workshop. These messages spoke of hope, resilience, and understanding in the face of racism with each other and the teaching staff.
Gurbir, a member of the student organizing committee, wrote in his blog entry for the project:
“This was a very fitting ending for the end, as the whole day was about who we are and Naveen Girn also kind of asked us the same thing. In conclusion, the day was a great start to the Next Generation project and the students seem very interested in it.”