On April 16, 2014, the Mosaic Institute hosted Day 3 of the Next Generation version of its award-winning South Asian Canadian Global Citizenship Project in the Vancouver School Board (VSB). Nearly 150 students from John Oliver, Sir Winston Churchill and David Thompson Secondary Schools in South Vancouver attended a day of workshops centred around the theme of Investing in Our South Asian Communities.

The guest speaker of the day was well known local entertainment journalist Tarannum Thind from OMNI TV. Tarannum inspired students with the story of her journey into the world of news and television while also imparting valuable lessons about growing up as a Canadian of South Asian background. She spoke passionately about not judging people and to working to see past racial, ethnic, and religious differences. She also spoke from her heart about the experience of watching her mother suffer the after effects of a debilitating stroke that left her partially paralyzed. Tarannum’s personal story provided a compelling introduction to the issues that some students would be examining later that day during the workshop entitled Stigmas Related to Mental Health and Disability.

Following Tarannum’s talk, five members of the Mosaic Institute’s Vancouver facilitation team – Fazeela Jiwa, Isaac Oommen, Rup Sidhu, Eloginy Tharmendran, and Natasha Aruliah – led the students through a series of educational workshops. Topics for Day 3 included reconciling identity with tradition; unpacking the implications of notions of honour and reputation; stigmas related to health and disability; shadeism; and issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lunch hour was spent not only eating, but also listening to Rup’s fantastic beats and painting a large mural for B.C.’s GirlKind Foundation and the Aarti Home, an Indian NGO that provides shelter, school, livelihood and awareness for abandoned girls and women in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh, India. Students had great fun dipping their hands into trays of paint, slapping their hands together to mix colours, and making handprints on a large canvas. Other students wrote personal and supportive messages for the girls living in the Aarti Home using acrylic paint markers.

Students spent the latter half of the day working on Community Service Projects (CSPs) in their home school groups, guided by our fantastic team of VSB teachers, including Amandeep Grewal (Thompson), Harkiran Aulakh and Josh Fairey (Oliver), and Laura Moore and Wynne Deschner (Churchill). Students from all three participating schools will be hosting a screening of the film ‘It’s a Girl’ to raise awareness of the issue of gendercide, in support of the work of the GirlKind Foundation and the Aarti Home.

The day concluded with a large-group discussion of the students’ various workshop experiences and — as has become tradition—a giving game from which novels by notable Canadian writers such as Shauna Singh Baldwin, Anita Rau Badami, Shyam Selvadurai, Anosh Irani, and Ranj Dhaliwal were awarded as prizes.

Students’ enthusiasm for the project remains high as they gear up for what will be a fantastic final day and closing celebration for Next Generation in the Vancouver School Board at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on May 14, 2014.