The women gathered in the multi-purpose room at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House on a warm and sunny August afternoon are awash in colour.
Adorned in beautiful saris and scarves, the more than 50 women gathered create a rainbow effect in vibrant shades of red, green, purple, white, yellow, orange, blue and pink.
But as lovely as the women look, it’s not fashion they’ve gathered on this day to discuss. Instead they are part of the South Asian Women's Wellness Program, which meets at the neighbourhood house every Monday afternoon to discuss the news, both local and from their home countries, take part in a Tai Chi class, socialize, offer peer support and when the need calls, raise money for worthy causes.
Seniors Hub council member Ramesh Kalia is a volunteer facilitator of the group, which is run informally out of the neighbourhood house, alongside Mohinder Sidhu.
“It’s about seniors helping seniors,” says Kalia of the group that at full strength includes 72 women. “We talk about everything from elder abuse to caregivers to scams and fraud.”
Kalia says the women are generous not only when giving cash donations, but also of their time. A group within the group knits and donates items sold at hospitals and care homes as a way to contribute to that facility’s fundraising efforts. The women recently turned their attention to raising money to groups assisting with wild fire relief across B.C.
“They donated more than $600 in a very short time,” she says.
Speaking through an interpreter, 85-year-old Nachattar Kaur Hundle says she’s been volunteering for 35 years at both at Sunset Community Centre and South Vancouver Neighbourhood House. Hundle’s specialty is cooking South Asian favourites, including rice, chick peas and roti (Indian flatbread), for fundraising meals. Like the other women in the group Hundle says she always helped others back in India, so when she moved to Vancouver in 1978, she simply continued.
“Canada gave us a lot of things,” says Hundle. “We are community members now and must give back.”