I was an accomplished man before I moved to Canada in 2014. I take pride in my career working for the United Nations. After my retirement, all I wanted was to reunite with my children in Calgary. Moving to Canada was life-changing for me, I got to be with my children but after living for most of my life in a large city with over 8.5 million people and warm sunny climate, coming to Calgary was a big change. I didn’t realize how difficult it is for older adults like me to live and settle in Canada until I experienced it.
I was very lonely at first. I had to be on my own most of the time when my children had to work. I missed everything, my relatives, friends, my own home, and my country of birth.
I knew I had to do something. I had to find new friends. I met Bangladeshi older adults who, like me, were also having a hard time connecting with people of their own age group and feeling lonely and isolated.
One day, I met a Bangla teacher and that connection changed my life. She connected me to Action Dignity, an organization that provides leadership training to immigrants and refugees. What caught my interest was their training program which provides practical tools, skills, information and contacts that I can use to help me and help others. I loved the fact that the training ends with an action plan that I could shape and implement to achieve my goal of helping immigrant and newcomer older adults help themselves through connections.
In between three training sessions that I attended, I went around contacting as many older adults as I could, learning about services available, improving my communication skills, and gaining more confidence in talking to people whom I have never met. I felt good about connecting my contacts to programs and services. I finally started to realize that as I was helping other people, I was also helping myself feel adjusted to life in Canada.
I didn’t want to stop. I attended more training sessions and served as a community connector for older adults. Through the bi-weekly training sessions, I learned about services for older adults as well as provincial and federal benefits and services that I never imagined exist. With more knowledge, I was able to help more people. I also encouraged those from the Bangladeshi community to participate in events, overcome loneliness, and find friendship and support.
With support and encouragement from Action Dignity’s staff, I worked diligently with the Bangladeshi Community Centre to develop a Seniors’ Club which now meets twice a week. The club has been gradually attracting a larger group of older adults at every meeting. The club is not only helping older adults, but also adults who are transitioning to retirement. The club helps people prepare ahead of time for their retirement, which I know will give them a sense of security and a happier life. I am working hard with the Bangladeshi community to promote the club as a safe and welcoming group that provides genuine support.
Participating in ActionDignity’s leadership training program helped me fulfill my desire to support and improve the life of others. I have come to realize that a newcomer retiree like me who started with barely no contacts outside of my family, can make a huge difference in the community. I am so proud to say that I did not only get help for myself, but others too.
We are a country steeped in indigenous histories and fused together in a mosaic of cultures. We pride ourselves in being a nation who respects and values differences. We see equality as a right but as it is with many of our rights, we must fight for it. We must never take it for granted and always remind each other of its importance. We exist to ensure all of us experience this right. That we never forget how our differences make us stronger and how our conviction of being a fair and just community is always upheld.
Each one of us is responsible for the quality of the community we live in. We all play a role in building our community and our future. We must act for our rights and our beliefs. We can all demonstrate our support and the value and respect we have for each other, with every interaction and at every moment.
It’s our choice what kind of future we build. Our actions define us. Help us build a future we can all be proud of.
Action Dignity Society (formerly Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary) was established in 2002 amidst the rise in racial tension following the events of September 11, 2001. From its inception, ActionDignity has been in the forefront of many initiatives addressing issues of diversity, human rights, racial inequities and public participation. It has built the leadership, presence and participation of diverse communities in civic activities, public consultations and policy making. We developed innovative approaches that strengthen the role of ethno-cultural communities in the design and delivery of social services, in domestic violence prevention and in neighbourhood strengthening. We have started important research on the impact of policy changes to Calgary’s immigrant population.
Our vision is for Calgary to always be a just and equitable society for all.
We’re on a mission to facilitate the collective voice of Calgary’s ethno-cultural communities towards full and equitable civic participation and integration through collaborative action.
Over 11,000 people participate annually in Action Dignity’s various programs and initiatives. Many participants go on to lead projects that benefit their own communities as well as the broader public.
What we do:
• Increase public awareness, knowledge and skills for issues important to ethno-cultural communities
• Engage ethno-cultural community members and organizations to create a collective voice on key issues
• Work towards social inclusion of individuals, families and communities, foster natural supports, identify and build on community strengths, bridge between cultures and service providers, and support community-led actions for positive change
• Conduct and share research on the experiences of ethno-cultural community members to inform decision-making and change within public policy, institutions, service systems and communities
• Bridge ethno-cultural community members and organizations with academia, public institutions and national organizations to provide an ethno-cultural perspective on important initiatives through the Broker Strategy
• Strengthen the capacity of ethno-cultural community organizations for community building, cross-community collaboration and civic participation
• Support community-led initiatives that address challenges and concerns
We run programs in the following areas:
The Social Inclusion initiative focuses on issues facing racialized communities using an intersectionality approach to understand the interplay of different forms of inequities which exacerbate social exclusion of racialized communities, especially in accessing services and opportunities in social, cultural, political and cultural spheres.
Using an asset-based approach, community development, cultural broker strategy, and platform/ collaborative model, we engage ethnocultural community members, families, and communities to use their strengths and collective power to improve inclusivity at the individual, organizational and policy levels.
Specifically, we: (1) empower and develop individual, family and community capacity to foster a sense of community by participating in forums, workshops, events. We connect them with resources for basic needs, provide them with leadership training, facilitate community action plans to address their social, economic, recreational, cultural, or civic issues that are important to them. (2) Build organizational and leadership capacity of our ethnocultural member organizations, enabling them to actively advocate for changes in the service delivery system and practices using a racial equity lens in various areas, e.g. domestic violence, mental health, poverty, racism, etc. (3) Advocate for equitable policies and systems grounded on lived experiences of racialized communities and all Calgarians.
Funding Partner: United Way of Calgary and Area
LEAD FOR CHANGE
The Leadership Engagement, Action & Development (LEAD) Program promotes racial equity, inclusion and cultural awareness in public systems and policies. It aims to address systemic inequities in public institutions, government and service systems so members of ethnocultural communities can fully participate in economic, social and civic life.
Funding Partner: Family and Community Support Services (FCSS)
The B.L.A.C.K (Becoming Leaders Acquiring Critical Knowledge) Project was created to strengthen the sense of identity and community among Black youth by building leadership skills, community connections, and youth-led actions to address anti-Black racism.
The project focuses on Mental Health, Self- Esteem & Wellness, Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship, and Anti-Black Racism Awareness and Knowledge Sharing.
Funding Partner: Calgary Foundation
The BRAVE Workers Program (Believe in the Rights and Value of Essential Workers) aims to highlight, understand, and address the challenges and barriers of racialized essential workers in meat-packing plants. COVID-19 outbreaks in meat-packing plants (re)surfaced ongoing systemic barriers that essential workers have been experiencing for decades; including poor and unsafe working conditions, job insecurities and vulnerabilities, the significant challenges they face in advocating for themselves along with increased racism in and outside their workplaces.
Through various approaches such as capacity building, research through storytelling, community broker strategy, and the community development shared platform model, the BRAVE Workers Program is designed to increase the capacity of racialized essential workers to meaningfully drive decisions for job safety, timely wages, job security and immigration status. These program activities will help pave the way to policy and systems change as communities continue to engage with labor groups and unions, service providers and government agencies.
Funding Partner: WES Mariam Assefa Fund
CO-CREATION OF THE CITY OF CALGARY’S COMMUNITY-BASED ANTI-RACISM ACTION PLAN
This strategy will focus on The City’s role in addressing systemic racism in Calgary and our community-based services. The project will be facilitating a targeted engagement process with certain persons, groups, and organizations to invite them to co-host events or participate in focus groups starting in May 2021. Leveraging existing community connections, over 30 events and online focus groups will be hosted. This is a collaborative project between ActionDignity, Habitus Consulting Collective, and the Anti-Racism Action Committee.
Partner Organization: Habitus Consulting
Funding Partner: City of Calgary
People’s CAFE (Coalition to Advance Fairness & Equity)will help address barriers to social participation and increase the capacity of ethnocultural organizations to focus on systemic barriers to social participation. Related to this desired outcome, this project intends to increase participation by racialized communities in projects which address barriers to social participation. Specifically, ActionDignity will build the anti-racism capacity of ethnocultural organizations and leaders within Calgary. The project will deepen understanding of racism and facilitate community-led actions to address systemic barriers to social participation.
Funding Partner: Department of Canadian Heritage
Pursuing the vision of a just and equitable society for all is complex work but with your help we can achieve it.
There are many ways you can help, here are a few:
Donate: Your contribution is more than a donation; your support enables us to continue building strong communities and cross-cultural connections so that we achieve a more respectful, inclusive and welcoming society for all.
Volunteer: We are always looking for volunteers who are passionate about serving the community and creating a better Calgary for everyone. With our unique programs that support diverse groups, we offer a variety of ways for you to connect with your community.
Be a Champion and Advocate: You can help champion the cause for ethno-cultural communities. Be involved in promoting respect for diversity, participating in public policy initiatives that support ethno-cultural communities, and encouraging civic participation of immigrants, refugees and ethno-cultural communities.