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Creating community

Story by Sacha DeVoretz

Jin arrived to Kelowna from Korea only five years ago. Her husband had been offered a job in the city and Jin was surprised to see there weren't a lot of other people with similar backgrounds to hers in Kelowna.

"It's not easy to make friends when you first arrive, you need to have connections," says Jin, with some apprehension.

Kelowna Community Resources is in the process of developing a solution to the isolation newcomers can experience. The resource centre is establishing a multicultural centre which will provide a place for newcomers to visit, meet new friends and share their experiences. The centre has been named The Gathering Place and will host a variety of activities which everyone is invited to share in. The focus of the new centre is to bring the local community and new immigrants together.

"We hope to host cooking lessons and other events so we can share our Korean culture with everyone," says Jin.

It has been a challenge for Jin and her Korean friends to get together. Renting out a space is too costly and having the group meet in an individual's home does not provide enough space.

The multicultural centre will be a space where people from a wide range of backgrounds can come together under one roof.

Other cultural groups find it difficult to have a regular space to host their functions and come together to support one another. There have been calls from the general public who would like to learn from other cultures as well.

The Filipino community has been growing but does not have a regular meeting space. Kelowna is a diverse city with many ethnic groups, some of which only have a handful of people, and they would like to connect with other newcomers. Not having adequate social interaction can slow progress which can later be reflected in the newcomers ability to contribute to their new country and thrive in their neighbourhood.

Jin recalls the first month she was in Kelowna and the loneliness she felt at times. "I do remember a Sunday, I had been crying. I didn't feel confident to approach people and was really lonely at this time." Jin says that at first it was easier for her to make friends with other newcomers and that they could easily relate to each others experiences.

Kelowna did have a multicultural centre about 12 years ago, but eventually it was closed down. Now with an increasing number of new immigrants the multicultural centre will offer a space to bring the community together, celebrate its diversity, house newcomers and engage the local community.

Monday December 9th the public can attend a forum which the Kelowna Community Resources will host to discuss the official opening of The Gathering Place. The conversation and event will focus on discovering solutions for addressing racism and supporting multiculturalism in the city.

Part of the forum will explore ways to support a welcoming and inclusive community at the new multicultural centre. Kelowna Community Resources is looking for feedback from Kelowna residents about what they would like from their new centre.

The forum is set to be held Monday December 9th from 5:30 - 7:30pm at the School District 23 Educational Services Building (1040 Hollywood Road, Kelowna). For more information and to RSVP contact Katelin Mitchell, Immigrant Services Manager at [email protected]

Kelowna Community Resources will be opening The Gathering Place in early January 2014.

"With our meetings we want to empower new immigrants and help raise their self esteem," says Jin. "Confidence in a new country is an important thing."

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