Celebration of culture unites staff, people supported and their families
Lisa Bailey

As a celebration of cultural diversity, posAbilities annual picnic embodies one of the organization’s core values and its vision of an inclusive community.

Team manager Pam Balog, who is a member of the cultural committee that organizes the event, notes that staff members and the people supported by posAbilities represent many ethnic origins. By incorporating elements reflecting their cultures into one of the organization’s largest gatherings, it “increases our awareness, understanding and knowledge of one another.”

Pam estimates that a few hundred people of all ages, including staff members, people supported by posAbilities, and their families, attended this year’s picnic at Queen Elizabeth Park in New Westminster.

Tlowitsis dancers contribute to the festivities.

They enjoyed an array of presentations throughout the four-hour event, which was bookended by rain and clouds. Performers ranged from a Caribbean steel drum band to belly dancing and the Stars of the North youth drumming group from Tlowitsis-Mumtagila First Nation.

One of the people supported by posAbilities sang songs in English and Chinese, and a group of youth gave an adaptive martial arts demonstration.

In between presentations, a staff member sang and played piano.

Human resources assistant Sarina Ram, who heads up the performance portion of the picnic, notes that the showcase not only celebrates diversity but it also helps to build relationships with community members who perform and drop by, and amongst staff and families.

“We find that now, because people have that commonality of watching a performance from a different culture, they can build relationships, meet people that they normally wouldn’t meet,” Sarina says.

Holding the celebration in a community venue — a new park location was selected this year — attracts the public so they learn more about posAbilities and the people they serve.

They get to meet people supported by posAbilities and their families, who welcome the invitation to have fun and network with other families and staff including directors, Sarina says.

This coming together can help to foster belonging, respect and hospitality which are all characteristics of an inclusive community.

Sarina and Pam note that staff members, who work at various locations and in different programs, also get an opportunity to reconnect at the picnic.

“Working in human resources, you don’t get to see a lot of people necessarily so you get to put a face to a name, which a huge thing,” Sarina says.

In addition to the performances, staff members accepted the invitation to bring ethnic food dishes which were offered on top of the traditional barbecue fare of hot dogs, hamburgers and salads.

A world map was displayed so people could indicate their country of origin which, Sarina says, provides useful information in planning future cultural initiatives.

Planned over the course of the year, the picnic wouldn’t be possible without a team effort, Pam says.

A review of the 2011 event will likely take place near the end of the year, then the committee will move forward for the next celebration.

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