Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Received the Community/Literary Ambassador Award from the Writer's International Network (Canada)

Cycling4Diversity in the Langley Times

Team cycles for diversity

Members of the Cycling 4 Diversity team brave a torrential downpour on Friday, riding from Langley Secondary to H.D. Stafford, where the group of educators, politicians and community organizers spoke to 100 students about celebrating and supporting people’s differences. Founder, Ken Herar, cycled 200 km from Victoria to Abbotsford. - Monique TAMMINGA/Langley Times
Members of the Cycling 4 Diversity team brave a torrential downpour on Friday, riding from Langley Secondary to H.D. Stafford, where the group of educators, politicians and community organizers spoke to 100 students about celebrating and supporting people’s differences. Founder, Ken Herar, cycled 200 km from Victoria to Abbotsford.
— image credit: Monique TAMMINGA/Langley Times
In 2011, Ken Herar was told he wasn’t welcome to a Christmas party in Surrey because he was East Indian.
“I called up to get two tickets to this party and the woman on the line asked me if I was East Indian.
“I told her I was and she said they weren’t allowing East Indians at this party,” Herar recalls.
“I thought she was joking.”
Here it was 2011, and this discrimination was happening to him.
“It hit me right then that racism hasn’t gone away.
“We have to be a few steps ahead of it and that’s why we are here today,”  Herar told more than 100 H.D. Stafford Middle School students last Friday.
After that incident, Herar created an organization called Cycling4Diversity, in an attempt to deliver a message to students across B.C. about celebrating our cultural existence, but also to encourage dialogue about being inclusive.
With the event now in its fourth year, the team of cyclists visited 15 cities and more than 20 schools last week, to speak with students about being inclusive.
The team of eight to 10 riders, along with five support staff, rode under a torrential downpour from Langley Secondary to H.D. Stafford on Friday, to deliver that message.
Among the riders were LSS teacher, Gurp Mahil, LSS principal, Dawne Tomlinson, Langley Times editor Frank Bucholtz and Langley City Councillor Dave Hall.
“What we are asking is,  do one thing to be inclusive,” said Herar.
“Maybe someone doesn’t speak English, but try to make a connection.”
Don’t make assumptions about people.
“I was born and raised here. India is a foreign country to me and I don’t speak the language,” he said.
Tomlinson told the crowd of Grade 7 and 8 students that Langley Secondary  students have a message for them.
“Know that we are very accepting and safe community. We are accepting of what you wear and how you talk,” she said. To learn more go to cycling4diversity.ca.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cycling4Diversity finishes another tour through the Lower Mainland

Cycling4Diversity Team Peddles To Another Finish In Celebrating Our Distinct Society

Left to Right: Bill MacGregor, Anne Marie Sjoden, Dave Loewen, Harjit Sajjan, Norm MacLeod and Ken Herar
By Ken Herar
The Cycling4Diversity team recently finished its four day journey (May 20th-May 23rd) from Mission to Mission. The team of a dozen, or so C4D team members visited 20 schools in 15 cities, spreading the message of being inclusive throughout the Lower Mainland to thousands and thousands of students to celebrate Cycling4Diversity Week in BC from May 18th-May 24th.
The team of riders left Mission on the morning of May 20th from the Mission Friendship Centre, where they were gifted with a Bandana and Pray Ties ceremony for blessings.
Overall, the ride was smooth, but challenging, nevertheless in trying to reach the schools in the scheduled times. The team completed an average of 5-6 schools per day from: Elementary, Middle and Secondary. The message was well received and our team was encouraged and welcomed to return in the future. Some mayors and council members even pedaled with us or met our team at the schools to gracefully extend welcoming letter or proclamation. In total, the C4D team received 10 proclamations, including one from the Province of British Columbia declaring it: Cycling4Diversity Week from May 18th-May 24th.
During this week, members encouraged students to make a special effort and develop intercultural relations with fellow students and break any conceived barriers that may exist in schools, neighborhoods or workplaces. Let’s face it, racism still exists unfortunately and cultural isolation is a growing issue in some of our communities. C4D member and Abbotsford Coun. Bill MacGregor, who spent decades in the school system and retired as a principal connected with students, during each of his presentations. He spoke about author Stephen Convey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He referred to Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This relates to our overall message, that if we all took a moment to listen or reach out to some one, that is one way of clearing up any stereotypes or misconception that may exist, between different cultural groups. We all have biases and sometimes through discussions like these, people may take the time to change any past behaviors through reflection. Parents also plays an important role in this equation and communication is vital how we grow as a integrated community.
The team visited 4 schools in the Abbotsford/Mission area on May 20th, which included: Mission Secondary, Silverdale Elementary, Matsqui Elementary and Dasmesh Punjabi School. Commanding Officer of the British Columbia Regiment Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Sajjan said: “Mr. Herar has taken a unique method of promoting diversity and inclusiveness with Cycling 4 Diversity. C4D has professionals from diverse backgrounds promoting diversity to kids while encouraging physical fitness. I had the pleasure of joining the team this year and I can say with surety that I gained more from the experience.”
Coun Dave Loewen said: “The four-day, 22-school Cycling4Diversity trip was my first, and it didn’t disappoint. The welcome we received wherever we went was genuinely open and warm. I came away from that experience believing that an authentic awareness existed that our message was not only needed, but that adherence to the message was essential for the creation of a more peaceful world.
“It was my impression that the students we spoke to, particularly in the Greater Vancouver area, already have a grasp of this, and that my generation has much to learn from the younger generation. I observed that they are more fortunate than I was at their age, in that my school was ‘all white’, while the cultural diversity that exists today contrasts sharply. One school we visited had 70 different languages represented in their student body.
Needless to say, our message bears repeating many times, and I trust I will have more opportunities to participate in this worthwhile initiative.”
Other members from the local area were: Anne-Marie Sjoden, Norm MacLeod, Bob Soltis, Randy Cairns and Anoop Tatlay. The C4D team is being recognized tomorrow with a Community Service Award at the District of Mission annual awards event.
Ken “Kulwinder” Herar is a Mission-based writer and a winner of the champions of diversity award for his columns in the LINK newspaper and other Fraser Valley newspapers. Herar can be reached at kenherar@gmail.com or view his blog at http://www.kenherar.blogspot.com