Friday, January 21, 2011

Mission Firefighter Norm NacLeod and team head to Paraguay

Celebrations and new adventures in Paraguay

By Ken Herar, Special to the Times January 21, 2011

South Asian families across the globe have been celebrating the Festival of Lohri, this past week. Don't confuse it with Diwali, which is celebrated in the fall. Lohri represents the season of the new beginning.

It can be in the form a birth of a child or a marriage. I recall being invited two years ago to my first Lohri party by Abbotsford resident Jai Birdi, where we celebrated the birth of a baby girl with the family at a restaurant.

The beauty of this specific occasion was they were a non- Indian family and it clearly demonstrated that we should never hold back in reaching out to members outside of our own culture.

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A member of the Mission Fire & Rescue is returning to Paraguay for his second tour as part of Firefighters without Borders Canada. Captain Norm MacLeod, who started with the local department as a paid on call member in 1988, has been a career member since 2009. MacLeod said: "Prior to our deployment, our organization shipped 11, 500 pounds of equipment and Firefighting gear to Paraguay by land and sea."

Other team members include: Derek Dickson, Brad Knorr and Brian Metzak.

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Speaking about new beginnings and developing relationships. What never fails to impress me is the amount of social programs being offered to assist new Canadians in their transition to Canada.

"Friendships across Cultures" is a program about creating friendships between new Canadians and Canadian youth's aged 12-18. The program is designed to help integrate them into community and to develop a better understanding of various cultures.

Volunteers are matched offering friendship, support and creating an overall feeling of connectedness. It also aims at educating youth on anti-racism and aid in breaking down cultural barriers existing in our schools and community.

The program is currently offered in five local schools in Abbotsford and has over 300 youths (newcomers and volunteers) participating.

A similar program, The Host Program, also helps new Canadians adjust to their new life in Canada. With the help of volunteers, newcomers learn about Canadian values, traditions and daily life so that they feel more at home in Canada. Volunteers and newcomers meet for an hour or two every week, for a period of six months to a year.

Matches are based on criteria, such as similar interests, family size, age and gender. For more information contact Gladwin Language Center at 604-854-8160, or

- Ken Herar is a freelance columist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking with Tia Singh about New Year resolutions

Proclaiming a resolution evolution

Getting ready for a new year: the year of the centenary

Happy New Year. As I was penciling down my Top 10 resolutions I asked myself, "Can these really be achieved?" Before I got too carried away with any more I decided to seek some advice from an expert in the field.

I picked up the phone and spoke with Tia Sparkles Singh, who is an unconventional solopreneur, life and business coach, writer and adventurer.

She inspires coaches and provides smart strategies for solopreneurs in their first year of business to beat fear and create a successful business.

"Traditionally people set goals and make resolutions around New Year's Eve that they break within days," she said. "A much smarter and more effective way to create positive changes in your life, is by setting intentions and guidelines instead. This is because willpower alone can't make you change.

"Those goals you set just aren't motivating enough. You set them out of a sense of guilt and pressure, not because you really want to do the work involved. So this year, why not try something different. Pick a word. For example, I picked 'committed' as my 2011 guiding word and I'll keep this as the basis of all my actions this year," she explained.

Before I do something, I'll ask myself, "What would someone who is really committed to this activity do and how would they do it?"

Just doing that will help with accountability without allowing you to fail, said Singh. For more information visit her website at

With those thoughtful words from coach Tia, my personal goal for this year is I am committing myself again in promoting ways towards building an inclusive, diverse community.

With my cycling journey to Victoria planned for this May/June, I wanted to do something unique while capturing the imagination of a wider audience. I feel the moment has arrived to share with the general public some of the feedback I have gathered during my 16 years as a writer. I feel this is my sole responsibility and something I take very seriously.

People have been approaching me on the streets and giving me loonies and toonies and offering me places to stay during my upcoming seven-day trip. I am thankful and humbled by the gracious support. The campaign will officially start in March and will be called "Let's celebrate Multiculturalism together."

On a political side note, the last time someone ran for the top brass of a party from the Central Fraser Valley was Social Credit Dewdney MLA Norm Jacobsen of Mission back in 1991.

With Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong seeking to become premier of this province, history could be in the making.

Speaking about history, on Monday, Jan. 10 at 3 p.m Mayor George Peary will proclaim 2011 as the Year of the Centenary of the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford.

This event will be held in the civic auditorium of city hall in Abbotsford. Earlier in the day an exhibition of pioneer photos and stories will be open for viewing for the general public in the lobby.

Sharanjit Sandhra, who has been working hard organizing this historical event with her team said, "As such, in honour of this event, the entire community will be celebrating all year long. The kickoff of the centennial will take place at Abbotsford City Hall in January, where an exhibit of the Sikh temple and other pioneer images will be on display."

The Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley will also be holding a reader's and writer's festival in March, a film festival, and an undergraduate conference in May honouring the pioneers.

The Khalsa Diwan Society of Abbotsford will also hold a three-day prayer, ending in a festival on the temple grounds in the month of August, said Sandhra.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times.

South Asian Health, Wellness & Fitness Expo and my cycling journey to Victoria

I am honored to be contributing in this South Asian Health, Wellness & Fitness Expo publication. As an avid athlete, I have come across many outstanding examples of South Asian athletes excelling in competition. What is clearly visible is South Asian’s are naturally gifted with physical strength, endurance and talent assisting them to succeed at all levels of sport. I have decided that 2011 is the year I am going to put the pedal to the medal. As someone who enjoys cycling and as a writer for the past 16 years I wondered how could I combine these together with an everlasting message? This is what I came up with. I am currently planning a 7-day biking expedition from my hometown of Mission to Victoria this June called, “ Let‘s celebrate Multiculturalism together”. The purpose of this journey is not only to promote multiculturalism, but also to share in a valuable discussion with British Columbians of the growing cultural divide we’re currently facing in some of our Lower Mainland communities. Why not, highlight the spirit of physical health with an important Canadian message.
Keeping physically active enables us to enjoy are lives to the fullest potential on and off the court. By encouraging people to be in full motion with their bodies and minds they will notice positive results in their overall health. Speaking with my older brother Daljit, who is a physician in Surrey. He recommends that daily exercise is important for South Asians who are at a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes throughout their lifetime.
If you’re heading back to the gym or looking for an intense cardio workout with low impact on the body you should definitely try a spinning or cycling class at your local gym. I do it three or four times a week and I am seeing quick results. I am looking slimmer and feeling much better. Instructors guide you through an intense program with music that usually last 50 minutes. One of my favorite instructors from Inform Fitness Center in Mission Georgina Mitchell said: “ spinning is a great form of aerobic exercise. This work-out tones the and strengthens the lower body - the legs of course, but also the hips and core muscles of the back get used too. In an hour-long class, a person can burn 400 to 1000 calories - depending on the individual and the intensity of the workout.” It is also a great training workout for the cycling enthusiast who is unable to get outside during inclement weather. Plus there is no traffic to worry about or falls to be had - so no helmet necessary. You will want water and a towel, said Mitchell.
“Because each person is in control of their own bike, they control the tension and speed that best suits them - so they can set how hard they want to work. Plus instructors are happy to give different moderations for different participants.”
Some of my other workout activities include running, basketball, tennis and doing whatever it takes to hopefully land my bike and I at the provincial capital.
The bike that I will be pedaling on has been generously donated by Wentings Cycle & Mountain Shop in Mission. During the trek, I am planning on raising funds to hopefully buy the bike and donate it to a worthy individual who is in need. If you would like to nominate someone please let me know. Strangers have been approaching me on the streets and giving me loonies and toonies and offering me places to stay during the trip. I am thankful and humbled by the gracious support.
I am not doing this to obtain ‘hero status‘, but rather, I see it as a personal responsibility to share in the feedback I have received as a veteran columnist. Meeting and listening to people is always fun and exciting. Along the route, I will be hopefully visiting a dozen or so communities and discussing ways to make our communities more inclusive. Whether you agree with me or not, I am here to pass everyone this message from readers. If you believe in this message and would like to be part of this team, even if it's for only part of the distance, drop me a line. This has to be a group effort and its not a race. Estimates have it that we will be pedaling 4-6 hrs a day traveling roughly 300 km during the week.
People are extremely angry and frustrated of this growing isolation. Changes need to happen sooner than later. Experts predict that our population is going to get much more diverse in the decades to come and in 10-20 years, we will have some serious issues on hand if we don't discuss them now. I can't change how people live, but we can certainly make them think. The engine of diversity are working, but some major repairs are needed. Remember, that isolation creates hate and this effects everyone. How we live today, will be passed down onto the next generations of Canadians. By creating awareness, we have made a difference.
The end goal of this week-long spectacle would be to arrive at the Legislature and meet with the next premier and highlight this awareness. Stay tuned. I am looking forward to coming to a city or town near you. Enjoy the day.