Valentine's Day is a day where people come together to celebrate love. It's also a day to show appreciation to those who have touched our lives and communities in so many ways. A great way to celebrate this day is at the Love Umbrella Project Celebration Party. There will be drinks, great people, and an exhibition of all the wonderful photos (including one we created on your behalf).
On a cold, wet Sunday evening, EastVanLove organizers Ajay Puri, Kimie Ong, Evi Vassious and many bold and courageous people participated in the Love Umbrella Project photoshoot at Spanish Banks. The photoshoot was simply magical. It was an amazing evening on the beaches of Spanish Banks. We wanted to keep to our core values of being fun, positive and inclusive. What better way than to go to the beach at night and enjoy it in its natural beauty! The photoshoot was filled with unconditional love and connection. We experimented with the umbrellas and various light sources including glow sticks, flashlights and sparklers. The main thing we wanted to do is show our love and gratitude to Mother Nature, our city and to one another. We were blessed to be partnered with photographer Tracey Ayton. She was able to easily show how the people and natural beauty of Vancouver bring life to the city
Sufis say the moon is like a mirror to our soul and a reflection of who we are — that night she overpowered the clouds and showed her unbelievable radiance and beauty. It seems she was simply reflecting the wonderful energy that was shown on the beach — I’m ever so grateful to all of you who came and participated in the social experiment that night. You are all amazing souls that have illuminated my life and the city around us. And special thanks goes to Tracey and Madeline for capturing the essence of our message and the moment!
We are made up of networks that are interconnected (networks here refer to established non-profit organizations and grassroots movements). Through these diverse networks we support our work and the communities we serve. The following is a sample of some networks and the need they fulfill:
#EastVanLove (www.eastofmain.com) – is a network and our mission is to pride our neighbourhood and the people who live, study or work within it. With the gentrification that is happening in the area, it’s important we honor the past but embrace a future that includes all members of the communities. Thus our mandate is to promote non-profit organizations and businesses that have their values embedded in social justice and environmental sustainability. We live our mission through our online means (hosting a website and leveraging social tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube) and hosting Tweetups (in-person events bringing together those who tweet and do not tweet) that celebrates our local champions.
Bee Vancity (http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/beevancity) – is a network and our mission is to Build, Engage and Empower Vancouver, through promoting honey sweet events. Vancouverites according to a recent Vancouver Foundation report are feeling more isolated these days and many refer to the city as a NoFunCouver. Our aim is to disprove these feelings and foster a more vibrant and stronger community. In the hive we have many bees where we curate a weekly event listing guide but do so with a twist – instead of being a complete listing, each bee individually selects there top event of the week along with honorable mentions. In this way we share each of our lens on the events that follow our mission (e.g., we have bees who focus more on fun events, and others that are social justice, DIY, or arts & culture focused). RangiChangi Roots (www.rangichangi.ca) – is a registered non-profit and our aim is to bring colour to the green movement. Rang in hindi, Punjabi, Nepalese and Farsi refers to colour, Rangichangi is a play on words which means diversity of colours. When coupled with Roots, our hope is to allow for the spread of diverse views to help us all of us reconnect to one another and the planet around us. We have hosted dialogues which include compelling stories shared by speakers or films which deal with the environment from diverse cultural perspectives and addressing provocative questions that have been posed to us including “Why is the green movement so White?”
CoopCulture (www.coopculture.com) – is a social experiment to bring a nuanced dialogue to address the two questions “what does multiculturalism in our communities really mean and how do we envision a more inclusive, stronger society?” We have hosted dialogues and use our website to facilitate dialogue on this topic. We do not have answers but pose provocative questions for the community to answer in order to empower everyone to transform.
BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (www.bcpsqc.ca) - is where Ajay currently works full-time. They are an arms length entity from the Ministry of Health and their mandate is to improve the quality of care British Columbians receive in the health care system. Our hope is to support the system in this journey of improvement and ensure everyone receives the best care, no matter where. Huge gratitude to our supporters and partners – there are many organizations and individuals we are indebted to for their generous support. For the purposes of the #LoveUP project, we had partner representation from individuals who are involved in various movement-based groups that are involved in one or more the following: tackling systemic issues, having social events, strengthening our hearts, and heighten our spiritual awareness.
What’s important about your community?
What is important is staying true to our core values. Our work is rooted in caring for the planet and each other. We believe that the work we do must be fun, positive, and inclusive. And our process is to be organic.
We try to have fun while planning our initiatives and ensure everyone that participates has fun as well. In our meetings we try to have them around food either as potlucks at someone’s house or at restaurants that take pride in the food they make. At our events even though they touch on serious issues in our society we try to frame them in a way to ensure they are engaging, two-way and in light-hearted ways so all can participate and no one feels left out. Added to this we know there are problems in our world and its always easy to criticize and point out what’s wrong. However, we feel that keeping things positive provides hope to people and that there are possibilities outside the current system that we must go to. We attempt members to dream what our society could like and help support them to plan to get there. We also seek to be inclusive. Equity, diversity and ensuring everyone has a fair chance to participate and grow is paramount to the work we do. We try to our best to ensure our work goes to the inter – that is, intercultural, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary. This is because we feel that that is where the answer of true love can be found. Incorporating multiple views from various perspectives makes this work very challenging, but when done right the outcomes are truly rewarding.
As an example when we (Coop Culture) organized a dialogue to showcase how online tools are helping ethno-culturally diverse communities connect within and between communities we were thrilled to have a sold out event and a great discussion. However, what truly impressed us was something we didn’t plan for or expect. A twelve year old female attendee who attended the event approached one of the speakers after the event and told him that she was inspired with the work he was doing to educate non-Filipinos to learn Tagalog that she herself would like to do this when she grows up as to not lose connection to her heritage. The speaker asked the young girl how she came to the event and to his surprise she answered by herself as it was posted on Facebook and it sounded more interesting than what she would normally be doing on a weekday evening.
Other examples – At Eastvanlove and RangiChangi Roots we do not ask for a set entrance charge but ask for donations, either financially or in volunteering, and ensure our events are open to all. We partner with organizations that have the same value set. And at Bee Vancity we tend to find events that are low barrier and promote those.
To have initiatives that are challenging problems of our time and thought-provoking we try to keep our process is organic. We constantly evolve our work and processes by learning what went well and what didn’t go well. As Mother Nature teaches us we need to be agile and adaptable otherwise we won’t thrive and reach our fullest potential. As an example for each Tweetup we host at EastVanLove, we have evolved the format based on each of the themes we have wanted to have. Sometimes we have more champions speaking, and sometimes less. Sometimes we have panel discussions afterwards and sometimes we have music. But keeping true to our values we ensure our events are engaging and participatory. At our last Tweetup that we held in December 2012 at the East of Main Café we had three speakers share stories of why they were passionate about their work (including Maureen who spoke to Project Limelight). After the speakers told their inspiring stories we asked attendees that if they were inspired instead of just giving money to these organizations they could give the their hearts – literally. That is, those that were interested we asked them to write what skills they wanted to offer on a heart-shaped paper. The response was overwhelming as most of the attendees shared their heart.
Our core values of being fun, positive and inclusive can be summed in what the South Asian cultures use in their cooking of curries, masala. Creating fresh masala is most definitely an art. One needs to bring together various spices (from very subtle flavours to very strong) to produce something that tantalizes the senses in multiple ways more so than just having a single spice in a dish. In the same way through these interconnected networks and communities we seek to liven and spice up Vancouver in hopes to spread love and happiness. As masalas are a combination of various spices there are an indefinite number of variations one can create. What masala do you think Vancouver needs? Experiment. Evolve. Share. Let’s spice up our city!