Thursday, 16 November 2017 06:43

Swift Current resident receives national medal for volunteer work

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Swift Current resident receives national medal for volunteer work Photo contributed, taken by Chris Graham

The efforts of Swift Current resident Bula Ghosh to promote the principles of multiculturalism has been recognized with a national medal for volunteers.


She received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers at a ceremony in Regina, Nov. 9. The presentation of the honours to recipients was done by Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Vaughn Solomon Schofield on behalf of Governor General of Canada Julie Payette.
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is an official Canadian honour. It is therefore part of the Canadian honours system and it is the only medal for volunteerism given by the governor general of Canada.
Ghosh immigrated to Canada in 1981 and she has been living in Swift Current since 1999. She felt honoured to receive the medal.
“Being a person who came as an immigrant, it definitely makes you feel good that you have been able to give back something to the community and to the country that let you come and immigrate here and live here, and also allow you to develop and also have a good life,” she said.
She added that her efforts have only been possible through the support of many individuals and organizations that gave her an opportunity to make a contribution.
“The opportunity that I got was as a result of so many people contributing in different ways, giving me the chances, and helping me out, like my family, my friends, the different organizations that thought me worthy to be sitting on their board and learn so much,” she said. “You got to have the opportunities to also give. So that’s why I think that it was a collective effort.”
She credits her parents for teaching her from a young age that it was important to share with others, and that lesson has continued to be an important guide in her life.
“I think that helped a lot, and then everybody else who came into my life contributed in so many ways and helped me to do something more,” she said. “Collectively people have contributed in so many ways in things that I have done.”
She was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She was a high school teacher in India, and taught science, chemistry and math for 12 years. She came to Canada in 1981 to join her sister, who was living in Yorkton.
She started to become involved in activities to support new Canadians and to promote multiculturalism while she lived in Yorkton. She became an active member of the Yorkton and District Multicultural Council.
“It happened because at the time the Yorkton Open Door Society closed, and then we realized there needs to be some support for the people who were suddenly left with no service,” she recalled.
She is proud of her contribution towards the creation of an award category for multicultural productions at the Yorkton Film Festival. She worked with the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan on this initiative and they engaged the film festival organizers to create a new award category.
After her move to Swift Current in 1999 she helped to revive the Swift Current Multicultural Council, which had been in hiatus for some time. The organization was renamed the Southwest Multicultural Association to attract participation from a larger region. Ghosh is the association's current president.
“We have not been as big, but we try in a small way to keep the message alive and any opportunity we get, we participate and we try to work with other groups, because we don’t have the strength to work alone,” she said. “We have a small group of members, but we partner a lot with the Welcome Centre and other organizations.”
The Southwest Multicultural Association hosts events to promote an appreciation of different cultures, for example through performances by cultural groups, but it also aims to promote discussion in the community about important issues. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks there were concerns over public attitudes towards visible minorities and members of the Muslim community, and the association organized a discussion forum in Swift Current.
“I think that was one of our good achievements, that we were able to create a discussion session so that employers and different community people were aware, and that could translate into awareness all over,” she said. “So we do try to focus on education and learning.”
In March 2017 the Southwest Multicultural Association partnered with various organizations to host an event in Swift Current to highlight the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its 94 calls to action to redress the legacy of residential schools. Ghosh believes it is a responsibility of all Canadians, regardless of how long ago they came to the country, to work towards reconciliation.
“I feel that as a person in Canada, as a citizen, I do have a responsibility to do something about it,” she said. “We cannot change what has happened, but we have to make amends. Even though I came to the country as an immigrant, I do feel that I also have a personal responsibility and something to contribute, and that’s become a big focus for me. We can be welcoming communities and welcoming everybody from different parts of the world, but at the same time we should not forget the people who were here first.”
Ghosh has been involved with various efforts to provide support to newcomers in the Swift Current area. She was a member of an immigration subcommittee of the Labour Attraction and Retention Committee in Swift Current around 2005, and she has contributed towards the work of the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre, of which she is the current board chair.
“Settlement is key,” she emphasized. “If the settlement process goes well, then people will stay in that community, but if it doesn’t go well, people feel isolated. They don’t feel connected to the community, and the first opportunity they get, they move out. So it’s a loss for the business, a loss for the community.”
She is able to help people to start a new life in Canada through her work as an employee of Great Plains College. She is currently the English language training coordinator at the college, and she has close to 20 years experience as a teacher of English as a second language. She is a long-time member of TESL Saskatchewan and in 2004 she received the organization’s award of merit to language professionals for outstanding service in the field of English language training.
She is a passionate proponent of family literacy programming and is a member of the Southwest Literacy Committee. In 2005 she was appointed to the Saskatchewan Literacy Commission advisory board, which helped to develop a literacy strategy for the province.
She also contributed to policymaking in the province in 1996, when she was a member of the Interim Multiculturalism Committee that examined the potential to create a single body to promote and fund multiculturalism in Saskatchewan. The committee’s work played a role in the creation of SaskCulture in 1997.
She currently serves on the board of Heritage Saskatchewan. She is particularly interested in the influence of heritage in the lives of people, and how people from different cultural backgrounds are contributing towards a new living heritage.
“That living heritage aspect definitely goes with culture,” she said. “It’s what you’re doing now, what you’re passing from one generation into the other. So that aspect in our diversity in our communities definitely will transfer from one generation to the other, and we will see a different way of growth in the Canadian way of living and doing things.”
She has a passion for women’s issues and is a founding member of International Women of Swift Current. Group members meet informally and occasionally host events, usually on International Women’s Day.
Ghosh appreciates all the opportunities she has to contribute to the community. She expressed gratitude towards her employer, Great Plains College, and several colleagues for their support. She also feels indebted to her sister and her sister's family for sponsoring her to come to Canada, and for encouraging her to do the volunteer work for which she is recognized.

Read 739 times Last modified on Thursday, 16 November 2017 10:37
Matthew Liebenberg

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