With the goal of giving back to seniors and the community, students of Surrey’s L.A. Matheson Secondary have eagerly taken on the task of raising funds to support the establishment of a long-term care facility for South Asian seniors.
Soon set to exceed the national average, British Columbia has the highest senior population in Canada. Of these, a significant proportion belong to the South Asian community. As the hustle and bustle of life commitments continues to take over the working population, creating senior care facilities is becoming a pressing necessity. With the goal of giving back to seniors and the community, students of Surrey’s L.A. Matheson Secondary have eagerly taken on the task of raising funds to support the establishment of a long-term care facility for South Asian seniors.
The school has partnered with community organization, Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS), which is spearheading the Guru Nanak Diversity Village (Senior Home) Project. Located in Surrey, construction for the three-story long-term care facility is slated to begin in late 2022; seniors are expected to reside in the 125-bed building by 2024. Overall, the project is set to receive $58.3 million in support from the provincial government. PICS is relying on community contributions to raise an additional $5 million for the creation of the facility. “I believe that ‘Guru Nanak Diversity Village’ is perhaps the biggest project to be built outside of the Indian subcontinent to commemorate Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary,” shares President and CEO of PICS, Satbir Cheema.
Over the coming time, L.A. Matheson’s four-year fundraiser will especially be emphasized during April, coinciding with Sikh Heritage Month and Vaisakhi celebrations. In fact, the very idea of a fundraiser came up as seva, selfless service, to community during Sikh Heritage month and virtual Vaisakhi. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events were cancelled, and students wanted to make a positive contribution. Ankita Grewal, Fundraising Officer for Guru Nanak Diversity Village, made a classroom presentation about Guru Nanak Diversity Village, following which, students brainstormed a fundraising plan. Most donations came online, with many contributions from past graduates.
Still in its starting phase, the fundraiser has garnered significant community attention, with students already having raised $8,271 so far this year. The community has tremendously stepped up, generously donating $1 million to the cause already. At L.A. Matheson alone, within the first three weeks, the team was able to raise 10 times more than their original goal of $700. A recent notable contribution of $1,271 came in from Aaron Cyr of Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society Local 1271, who was happy to see youth working to help the community. Cyr met with the core fundraising team and thanked them for their hard work and commitment to community service. Grewal urges others in the community to also partake in the fundraising efforts and take inspiration from L.A. Matheson’s students and teachers.
Without a doubt, community support is of utmost important. The cause is one that is close to the hearts of many, as deep familial connections are heavily prevalent across generations in South Asian households. Many student volunteers from L.A. Matheson feel personally connected to the fundraiser due to their own experiences with older generations. Grade 10 student, Amanpreet Kaur, shares, “I’ve always been close with my grandparents and elders in the house and I enjoyed spending time listening to their stories. Now, having the opportunity to do something that can help them in the future, was something I didn’t want to miss on.” Peter Johnston, Principal at L.A. Matheson, is impressed with students’ extraordinary efforts and dedication to the cause.
Modern Languages Department Head at L.A. Matheson, Gurpreet Kaur Bains, is a proud teacher, rightfully overwhelmed by the support showcased from community members, students, alumni, families, and colleagues. She especially shines light on the senior health care inequalities that have particularly come up during COVID. “A culturally sensitive healthcare is the need of the hour, and I am so happy that Matheson chose to help fundraise for Guru Nanak Diversity Village. No one has to let go of their language, heritage, faith and culture in their golden years while accessing senior care,” elaborates Bains.
Implementing culturally appropriate models, intended to target specific communities, creates a more homely atmosphere for senior citizens, especially when it comes to intricacies such as food and language. Echoing the same sentiment, Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the BC Care Providers Association, has also emphasized on addressing the issue of culturally sensitive care. The Guru Nanak Diversity Village is a stepping-stone towards bridging the gap. With our proactive youth on the frontlines, this project is a promising part of the solution.
Most importantly, the fundraising team at L.A. Matheson stands as an example that our youth will not step back when it comes to caring for the seniors in our communities. Gurkirt Kaur Minhas, Grade 11 student, expresses, “I am so appreciative that I was able to give back to our elders and really do something that would leave a positive impact in their lives.” The enthusiasm and commitment of such students is both a breath of fresh air and sigh of relief, that the futures of our older generations are in nurturing hands. As the name Guru Nanak Diversity Village entails, holding true to the concept of selfless service, seva, the students of L.A. Matheson have a plan, over the next few years, to leave a legacy that will last centuries.