Supporting diversity during 12 Days for Good

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Today’s 12 Days theme is ‘Diversity,’ which can be approached from many directions. Diversity is something that you might think of in terms of culture, country of origin or language but it can also apply to income, experience, age, outlook, or native language, to name a few. Today we’ve decided to focus on cultural diversity, and in particular on ways the Sunnydale residents have used diversity to transform their neighbourhood.

We’ve written about the Sunnydale community centre before, and for good reason. It has a rich history, not all of it happy.  For starters it is a multicultural hub but used to be known more as a neighbourhood with a high crime rate. Part of what helped turn that around is how they often bring people of all different cultures together as equals. Recently, the Sunnydale Community Centre received a grant from the City of Waterloo to publish a cookbook, bringing together family recipes from residents along with the story behind each recipe.

A picture of participants at food distribution at Sunnydale

A picture of participants at food distribution at Sunnydale

The cookbook was inspired by a day when the neighbourhood made ‘stone soup’ together. Rebecca Seiling explained the process in the book’s foreward:

“Several years ago, the community participated in making their own ‘stone soup.’ As in the traditional tale, big pots of water were set of boil in the kitchen of the community centre which is at the heart of the complex, drawing out curious people from their homes. Stones were added to the water, with an encouragement to residents to bring whatever they could to make stone soup. Bit by bit, various ingredients were added to the pots: bamboo shoots, Chinese mushrooms, onions, carrots, cilantro, peppers, beets, potatoes, parsley, celery, garlic, turnip, and other ingredients whose English names were unknown—each one improving the flavour of the soup. In the end, the neighbours created something delicious that none of them could have made on their own.”

This is the perfect metaphor for a diverse community, where often what comes out of it is larger than the sum of the parts that went in; when soup is made with many ingredients it is more delicious than a soup made from just one. When a community is made up of many different people from many different backgrounds, the same phenomenon can occur.

A favourite quote at the House of Friendship is, “charity is getting some food from the table, justice is having a seat at the table.” Sunnydale is creating just communities by giving everyone a seat at the table, and sharing resources to have bigger results than the sum of the parts that went in. If you want to purchase a book you can do so at the Sunnydale Community Centre in the new year. Copies are $10 each and the proceeds go toward supporting Sunnydale. Plus the recipes look delicious!

So, what are some every day ways you can help promote diversity in Kitchener-Waterloo? There are many organizations working to help newcomers to the region settle and they all have ways for you to get involved.

The Working Centre hosts their Speak English Café every Thursday from 6-8pm in the Queen Street Commons year round. You can attend to have conversations with people whose first language is not English, and make some new friends.

The Multicultural Centre is a great organization and resource for new and long-time Canadians. Their mandate is “breaking down the barriers to full participation of new Canadians in the Kitchener Waterloo community and surrounding areas.” They have extensive interpretation services, help people with job placement, and, as I’m sure many of you know, run the Multicultural Festival every summer in Victoria Park. To support the centre and the great work they do, learn how to donate here.

Finally, Neruda Productions is “a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building bridges in our community through music, dance, drama, and visual arts from around the world.” Founded in 2001 by artistic director Isabel Cisterna, they host tons of cultural events throughout the year with the goal of bringing multicultural performances to Waterloo Region, and a twin goal of supporting budding local artists. A Neruda show is always worth going to. For information about upcoming events, visit their website.

There are many ways you can get involved in promoting cultural diversity in Kitchener-Waterloo, through cooking, having conversations, or enjoying a performance. The gift of diversity is one that is connected strongly to many of the other ones we have talked about so far in our 12 Days campaign. Friendship, home, community, justice, health are all related to diversity. Each theme is about helping people feel included in a community, whether it is through building relationships or having basic needs met. When a community is diverse everyone benefits. Afterall, as we’ve learned from the Crime Prevention Council, when neighbourhoods are diverse and people feel a sense of belonging, people are healthier and crime rates go down.

How are you supporting diversity today? As usual, tweet at #12daysforgood or comment!

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