By Surjit Atwal. In Community Outreach – Building Momentum I wrote about the relationships we were able to begin and build upon during the first year of my job as Community Outreach Coordinator for MLA Darryl Plecas. I also wrote about how important it is to talk to each other, as the way to begin and build these relationships.
Relying on the commitment Dr. Plecas made to support me in building a meaningful community outreach program which would bring members of the community and community organizations together, I was able to begin an enormous number of new relationships and then begin the process of building upon them and watching new relationships grow all on their own.
Communities grow when citizens come together to build projects, solutions, and dreams. They can succeed when people have both the freedom and the support to achieve their objectives.
As the momentum builds and with initiatives like the ‘Campus of Care Committee,’ a focus on seniors’ issues and a whole new relationship with the School Board based in disability issues, the number of people involved and working with one another will have caused a great many new relationships to form and flourish.
I have outlined a community outreach plan in the last two articles. In this article I want to look forward to how the plan can provide more new opportunities for community outreach and growth. With a commitment to social justice, there are few things a community can’t achieve. Where do we start, and where would we like to go? Two new projects for me represent changes I hope to see.
1. Youth issues. With the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) and many non-profit and business organizations in the community, the Community Engagement Initiative will start a youth network on campus which will increase volunteerism, internships, and other experiences for university students in community projects. As the students find places they can use their talents and enthusiasm in the community, they will be making connections which will enrich the community and give them a strong stake in its future.
2. Human rights. Over the summer, preliminary contacts were made with UFV Pride and the Fraser Valley Youth Centre and connections were made between them and the UFV Alumni Association, the business community and the Abbotsford Police Department. I will be contacting both organizations again in the fall to develop an on-going dialogue and sustain the connections which have been made. This is just one example of where beginning to talk is the beginning of mutual respect.
3. Non-partisan discussions. I have really appreciated all the people who have offered to help with the Community Engagement Initiative. I would like to benefit from their advice and good ideas. I have organized several different small groups to meet and share their opinions and advice with each other and with me in a non-partisan way so that everyone can benefit. These groups are just getting started, but I hope they will become an ongoing way to connect with as many different views as there are in our community.
As always, we will continue to offer the office boardroom as a meeting ground for community groups, to affirm the general community’s right to draw on their MLA office’s publicly-funded resources.
Our door is always open and our commitment to social justice means that everyone is welcome to walk through it.
Please feel free to comment either publicly in the comments box below or email me your thoughts.
Part Four of Four
Surjit Atwal is a graduate of the University of the Fraser Valley and holds a BA in Political Science. He is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator for the office of Provincial MLA Darryl Plecas. His columns appear regularly on Abbotsford Today