Monday, August 31, 2015

First annual Sikh Spirit Ride

COLUMN: First annual Sikh Spirit Ride 'a wonderful time'

On the Spot by Ken Herar
I had the opportunity to participate in the first annual Sikh Spirit Ride on Aug. 15 from Mission to Surrey.
I haven’t been on my bike since our Cycling4Diversity event last May and all I can say is my biking muscles need a bit of pedaling.
Overall, I had a wonderful time and met lots of wonderful riders and actually got to wear a turban for the second time in my life. The first time is when I got married.
Wearing a turban is not as easy as people may think. I applaud the people who do because on occasion people do like to stare or take second looks, which can be difficult.
I have often been told by some that I am the whitest East Indian they have ever met. Actually, I am extremely proud of my Sikh heritage and was honoured to support my community in this endeavour.
Sundeep Kaur, camp director at Khalsa Centre in Miracle Valley, said, “The Sikh Spirit Bike Ride’s goal was to raise awareness about the Sikh faith and we also rode for healthy minds, body and souls.”
Our bike ride began at Khalsa Centre at Miracle Valley in Mission at 6 a.m. It was raining, but we kept our spirits high and even did a little prayer for the rain to stop.
We had 38 riders for our 90-km ride, ages nine to 58 years, with various fitness levels, from B.C., Texas, Scotland, England and of course, Mission and Abbotsford.
“We were escorted by the Mission RCMP and would like to thank them for keeping us safe. We are super happy with the success of our first annual ride and hope our ride continues to get bigger and we can raise awareness of health and the Sikh faith,” said Kaur.
I had the opportunity to meet Bob Ahuja on this day, who is from Abbotsford.
He got involved in 2009 with the Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle and Sears National Kids Cancer Ride in honour of of his two cousins who passed away due to cancer. In a few short days, he will be again dipping his wheel in the Pacific Ocean and riding east to Halifax as a national rider.
“I hope to reach out to all British Columbians that somebody out there will want to do the ride next year and also donate even a dollar to help reach my goal of $25,000,” said Ahuja.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

‘Welcome’ is a community effort

COLUMN: ‘Welcome’ is a community effort

On the Spot by Ken Herar
I recall many years ago when I was in North Vancouver getting gas. I walked to the attendant and struck up a conversation.
I asked him how long he was living up here and how beautiful it was.
He said, “A few months, and just recently moved from Abbotsford.”  I replied that was sure a big move. He said, “ Yes, we lived in a neighborhood where no one would speak to me or my children and we wanted to get out.”
I knew exactly what he was saying. I shared with him how sorry I was to hear this and wished him all the best on his move.
Many of our neighborhoods in Abbotsford are culturally diverse, whether you live on the west or east side. Some are more diverse than others, and building relationships at times is not an easy task.
One barrier that is often noted is language. There are many ways to gesture or acknowledge people in our neighborhoods like waving our hands or a smile if you don’t speak English as a first language.
I have even heard remarks such as, “I am not going to go to that side of town,  or “That is the bad part of town.” I cannot tell you how hurt I feel when I hear of stories such as this.
We are all part of one community, regardless of the side of town you reside in. So many of us try so hard to make our diverse communities feel welcomed, but it takes an entire community effort at all levels. We are also so fortunate that we can have such a conversation in Canada to improve any such cultural barriers that may exist between people.
Susan Federspiel, a community developer with the City of Abbotsford, said, “The City of Abbotsford supports neighbourhood events by providing one-to-one assistance for residents wishing to hold an inclusive event. The community developer is able to provide guidance to help  ensure that your event is inclusive and welcoming for neighbours of all backgrounds. Neighbourhood organizers might also want to consider borrowing the Neighbourhood Spirit toolkit – a loaner kit with items such as tables, chairs, pop-up tents, barbecue, games and much more.”
Some guidelines do apply, so to find out if your event is eligible check out and look for the Neighbourhood Spirit Toolkit Guidelines
To contact the community developer, call Susan Federspiel at 604-557-1464 or email
On behalf of the District of Mission, Bronwen Sutherland said, “The cultural resources commission realized that there were two areas of life that resonated with  Mission residents. A lack of connection with their neighborhoods, and public safety were the top concerns in an otherwise wonderful community.
“The CRC has initiated a program named Good Neighbors in an attempt to address these issues. The program will assist residents in creating events in their own communities such as block parties, neighborhood enhancement projects, barbecues and other activities designed to bring communities together.
“On Saturday, Sept. 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Second Avenue in downtown Mission, the CRC will be hosting a block party with food, activities and information about the program.
“We hope that we can inspire others to pick up the mantle in their own communities and we will have the tools on hand to make it happen. We hope to make 2016 the year of the good neighbours.”