Thursday, March 27, 2014

Diversity defined by how we treat others around us

HERAR: Diversity defined by how we treat others

  - News file photo
— image credit: News file photo
I was told by someone recently, as one who promotes diversity in the community, why is that I cannot speak my heritage Punjabi language.
I was taken back by this comment and to clarify the situation, I am more than capable of understanding Punjabi when someone is speaking it to me, but have more difficulty translating it back in a fluent manner.
I come from a generation of South Asian Canadians who did not have Punjabi spoken at home or at school, which makes it extremely difficult learning it later in life. I love my language of heritage and is something I am pursuing to master. Also, when it comes to my name, I prefer being called Ken or by my real Punjabi name Kulwinder.
But, does that make me less of a diverse person? Absolutely not. Speaking one or several languages doesn’t completely define you as a diverse person. So what makes an individual diverse? It comes down to one common factor which is how we treat others around us, not just how many countries one has visited or how many ethnic foods we have tasted. The language of love is one of the strongest signs of diversity. A person with a open heart and mind is how diversity should be adequately measured.
Diversity is not a puzzle or maze and there is no simple equation because each and everyone of us is at various stages of learning about diversity.
Anne-Marie Sjoden of Abbotsford said: "I love to volunteer in the community and meet so many kind people from all over world. I am always surprised to hear when someone makes racist remarks. Recently, I heard someone refer to an individual's head covering in a demeaning way. I don't see colour, it doesn't matter to me if you're black, white or brown. You're my friend because of who you are, it's that simple.”
Last month, Judy Johnson of Abbotsford visited Africa as part of a local grandmothers group called Abbotsford Gogos. She said: “I was privileged to be one of a group of 22 Canadian grandmothers of the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, who visited African grandmothers and the grassroots organizations that support them in Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa. It was an amazing opportunity to see the work that the grandmothers and the organizations are doing in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is having such an impact on African countries.
“Grandmothers are becoming the experts in their communities, working to support their grandchildren and other orphans, providing home care and support to those affected by the disease and advocating for women's rights and fair treatment.
"At a time of their lives when they had hoped to be taking it easy they are stepping up to fill the gaps left as their children have died.”
As part of her commitment to this trip, Johnson is sharing her stories of the grandmothers, she encountered. If you’re interested in learning more about their work in Africa, feel free to contact her at 604-556-3919.
Ken Herar writes on diversity issues for the Abbotsford News.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cycling4Diversity refects their thoughts with the Vancouver Sun

B.C. cyclists spin diversity message


Cycling4Diversity group encourages people to form social connections outside their culture

B.C. cyclists spin diversity message

Members of the Cycling4Diversity team, from left, Anoop Tatlay, Sukhmeet Singh Sachal, Bill MacGregor, Preet Rai, Aaron Levy, Terry Stobbart, Kulwinder Singh Dhillon, Harpreet Singh, Rick Lucy, Lindz Marsh, founder Ken Herar, and co-founder Sarina Di Martino Derksen.

When Ken Herar was growing up in Mission, his mother encouraged him to play not only with kids in his own South Asian community but with those from all ethnic backgrounds.
Now, when he walks down the streets of Abbotsford where he works, his head turns and he does a double take if he sees a white person walking with a South Asian. He senses the cultural divides have grown into vast chasms since his childhood.
The breaking point came for the Safeway clerk in 2011 when he was told he couldn’t attend a Christmas party in Surrey because of his race, and he decided he had to take action.
Herar founded Cycling4Diversity, a group that is putting a positive spin on ethnic harmony. Cycling seemed to be a good fit because it is wholesome, fun and has everyone propelling forward, he said. It is also a practical means of getting around, which became necessary in May when the group of about a dozen volunteer cyclists of mixed ethnicities travelled from Victoria to Abbotsford, visiting 14 cities and 27 schools to spread the gospel of inclusiveness.
The group hasn’t stopped there. On Wednesday, they spoke to inmates at Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village in Harrison Mills. The message resonates with its population of aboriginal men who often feel on the fringes of society.
The Cycling4Diversity group includes Abbotsford deputy police chief Rick Lucy; former local school principal Bill MacGregor; former NDP candidate Preet Rai; Kulwinder Singh Dhillon, who rides a motorcycle with the group; and Harpreet Singh, who has his own television show on Omni.
Herar says he can understand why race barriers have grown since he was a child. Back then, in the late 1970s and 1980s, the South Asian community in the Lower Mainland was rather small so it participated in mainstream activities, having no other alternatives. Now South Asians have their own businesses, newspapers and sports teams, a trend Herar says fosters ethnic solitude.
“(People) are too busy belonging to their own communities and ethnic groups,” said Herar, who writes a column on cultural diversity for the Abbotsford Mission Times. “It takes away from mainstream activities.”
Herar says he can understand why parents want their kids to grow up with an understanding of their ethnic and cultural roots, but he wants them to broaden their vision.
“There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your culture and heritage, but I think that we need to look at the long-term goals here. How are we going to live with each other and become a community?”
Herar wants both children and adults to become socially connected with people from other cultures.
“Talk to somebody outside your own culture. Invite them to your home. Do something with them. Whether it is in your neighbourhoods, your homes, your schools, your work places, do something that you feel would be a great way of reaching out to people. That’s what diversity is about.”
Herar says that if the Lower Mainland is to become a crucible of cultural harmony, he feels that people need to deepen their understanding of diversity.
“Diversity is more than having a festival. Diversity if about living it each and every day.”

Monday, March 3, 2014

Locals making a difference at home and abroad

COLUMN: Locals make a difference at home and abroad

On the Spot by Ken Herar
Many locals are making their mark around the globe and at home.
Former Abbotsford mayor and longtime high school principal George Peary recently returned from India on Dec. 12 where he was teaching at the University of the Fraser Valley for four months.
This was Peary’s second trip to Chandigarh, the capital city of Punjab, which is located in northern India. He and his wife Silvia first visited UFV Chandigarh in the fall of 2012, where he taught first- and fourth-year business classes. While being provided all the luxuries of a visiting professor: driver, car, cook and accommodations  – a busy schedule was maintained teaching six days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“India is colourful, vibrant and the food is spectacular, but the people make India. We were welcomed and treated royally,” said Peary.
During his stay, he and his wife had the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal, Golden Temple and travel to the cities of  Jaipur, Shimla and Goa.
When Peary returned to Canada, he was approached by Shav Brar from the board of the Dasmesh Punjabi School in Abbotsford.
They offered him the principalship of the school for six months. It was an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
“I love it and it’s a remarkable school. It’s the first time I have been a principal of an elementary school in my career. I am even taller than a few of my students,” said Peary. To view pictures from Peary’s journey, visit
* Two Abbotsford women are seeing your support to help children in need.
Kim Lee, founder of Imani Orphan Care Foundation, and Amanda Rauh of Watoto, Rescue, Raise Rebuild Foundation, are travelling to Kenya and Uganda this spring.
Lee noted, “We are a Canadian non-profit organization that supports children in need in two orphanages in Kenya. These precious children were abandoned by their families, orphaned, or rescued from an unhealthy situation. We support them with donations and sponsorships to help pay for their food, education, health care, and spiritual instruction.”
Imani’s goal is to help offer these disadvantaged children the opportunity to gain tools, skills, and knowledge, so that they can create better futures for themselves.
“... you’ll make a difference in the life of a child in need in Kenya. The funds will be used for the ongoing care of all the kids that spend their childhood living there,” said Lee.
To sponsor a child or find out more, visit:
* At home, Bridges of Faith recently commemorated a United Nations interfaith initiative with three tours of place of worship, a major dialogue event, and other community-building events in January and February in Abbotsford.
“This group maintains the world view  that it is okay that people have different beliefs, and that we can respectfully and lovingly contribute to the community in our own way,” said  Rudolf Dutoit of Abbotsford Community Services.Support Bridges of Faith by joining an interfaith event, or partner in interfaith work: or 604 859 7681 ext 270.