Foundation Projects: Youth Elevation Club in Surrey, B.C.
In a world of headlines igniting fear and uncertainty, there is another story of peaceful religious intercultural harmony that exists right here in Surrey, B.C. We recently embarked upon a one-day Spiritual Friendship Walk through a myriad of Richmond's religious houses of worship. With approximately 207,500 people and 65 per cent of whom are of Asian heritage, Richmond, has gracefully morphed into a thriving multi-faith community. It is also a spiritual haven with more than 60 mosques, temples, churches and religious schools of all denominations. Here at Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation, we believe in a holistic approach to working with at-risk youth. While many organizations focus on one aspect of a wraparound model, we believe that in order for an individual to be successful, his or her needs must be addressed in every area of personal development: emotionally, mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. We drove and walked from venue to venue to connect with the hosts and share gratitude and fellowship with others. The purpose of the Spiritual Friendship Walk was to open doors and inspire young people from diverse backgrounds and worldviews together to affirm our collective commitment to building peace and understanding in our community. We learned about the Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Sikh traditions thriving in our backyard. Each place was architecturally unique, mesmerizing, and rich in cultural history.
As our Foundation engages in interfaith dialogue and cooperation, we are discovering that across Canada, immigrants and visible minorities are much more likely to be religiously committed. Our faith shapes how we relate to one another, and if we are going to prosper as a caring and giving society in the future, we really need to understand each other in a context of increasing faith diversity. Here at the Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation, we offer volunteer opportunities to develop leadership skills to youth attending our programs. The International Buddhist Society, India Cultural Center, Az-Azahraa Islamic Center, Nanaksar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple and the Joy Christian Fellowship's leadership and contributions are an excellent example of people connecting and working together. We are one and we are Canadians working for compassion, peace and understanding. If we aspire to build cultures of compassion, peace and understanding and healing in a fragmented world, we can do this together. We can promote interfaith dialogue and co-operation to end politically and religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, respect, understanding and healing. May we walk together on every Easter Sunday to discover a spiritual haven which tells a true story of religious intercultural harmony woven together out of the best values each faith represents. The Spiritual Friendship Walk was surprisingly a youth elevation project ladened with beauty, compassion, grace and mercy.
A Kind Word from the Youth Group
Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation believes in engaging in Programs for Youth that build character, increase self-esteem and, develop life skills. Social development plans provide both children and teens with positive peer interactions, opportunities to develop problem-solving skills and positive adult support. In turn, these help reduce the risk factors associated with juvenile offenders. In addition, Amazing Tutors provides access to organized sports which serve throughout the world as a dynamic mechanism to engage youth of all races, genders, and classes. Though not the complete solution to stopping negative behaviors, organized sports and development programs can contribute to their reduction by giving young people a positive identity, feelings of empowerment and by helping youth acquire leadership, teamwork, and self-governance skills under adult supervision.
Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation's Youth Leadership Development Program
Here at Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation, we are very gratified for the depth and breadth of community support. We thank the International Buddhist Society, India Cultural Center, Az-Azahraa Islamic Center, Nanaksar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple and the Joy Christian Fellowship for providing us a tour of their facilities and receiving us with kindness. Through our Youth Leadership Development Program, we are building peace and understanding in our community. Our Youth Leadership Development Program facilitates the personal growth and leadership development in youths. We empower our youth to learn valuable leadership and life skills through a variety of diverse, spiritual experiences, peer engagement and active community involvement. Students earn school service credits. We focus on charitable works, community outreach and service activities, education, fundraising and organized sports. Our directors emphasize the importance of leadership through education and teamwork and our programs build and instill confidence, cooperation, discipline, hope, and high self-esteem.
Our Youth Leadership Development Program challenges youths to take on a leadership role both in life and in their caring community. We integrate participants into our organization's decision making body and volunteer programs. Additionally, we strive to offer youth the skills and competitive edge required for personal, relational and successful community growth. Through our Youth Leadership Development Program, our students and participants use hands-on learning to develop youth-to-adult and peer-to-peer relationships based on compassion, engagement and social awareness. We offer skills training workshops in the following areas: communication, community, co-operation, environmental sustainability, global awareness, leadership, and self-awareness. For more information about our tutoring and volunteering programs, please contact us today. We welcome your inquiries.
Our first stop was to the International Buddhist Society of Canada, a traditional Chinese-style Buddhist Temple. As a charitable, religious, and cultural organization established in 1981, the International Buddhist Society manages the temple. Until the temple's opening ceremony in 1983, Buddhists in the Lower Mainland did not have an authentic Chinese temple in which to study and practice Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhism encourages all sentient beings to transcend life's sufferings by casting away desires and mental afflictions and to embark on a journey to attain the ultimate level of spiritual understanding. Congregants celebrate Chinese New Year with traditional blessing couplets, vibrant flowers, snacks and foods at the Chinese New Year Flower Bazaar. The peaceful traditional Chinese Garden was designed by the Temple's Abbot. The meditation hall caters to the spiritual needs of devotees. A Taste of Zen restaurant, in the Thousand Buddha Hall, offers a gourmet vegetarian lunch service. Please click on the photo gallery and move towards the right side to see the beauty of Chinese workmanship in sculpture, painting, calligraphy and carpentry.
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Our second stop was the India Cultural Center of Canada, which was the first place of worship to be built along the three kilometer stretch. It is a top attraction for young men and women to perform their marriage ceremony. This is an impressive building with a community kitchen, library, office, committee rooms, and residences for the priests. Its convenient location, superb landscaping, an attractive park full of pink blossom trees, colorful seasonal flowers, water fountains and a huge parking lot are some of its highlights. In keeping with Sikh practices and traditions, they offer a number of community programs. These include fundraising, youth activities, tournaments, yoga and Punjabi classes. From time to time, they have hosted a number of Inter-Faith Bridging seminars in order to promote intercultural harmony. We were received warmly by their friendly staff and a warm lunch and tea was kindly offered.
Our third stop was the Az-Azahraa Islamic Center, which was officially opened on August 25, 2002. Sakaina, our host, was born in South Africa. She understands why our student volunteers were curious: "God's generosity is boundless and we must strive to share our generosity with others." She patiently answered all of our questions, guided us through the center, offered refreshments and received us graciously. The Shia Muslim Community of B.C. dates back to 1967, when a few members immigrated from Uganda. The early settlers organized religious functions in their homes and assisted new immigrants from Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. In keeping with Islamic traditions, they operate a 55,000 square foot facility which has a Mosque, shrine, Islamic School, playground, prayer hall, and a number of other facilities to serve the local Shia Muslim community for decades to come. Overall, high quality maintenance, a clean premise, impressive calligraphy designs, friendly staff and management are an attractive feature of this holy, contemporary place. As the community expands, more activities are added to fulfill additional needs.
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Volunteer for the Adventure
We left an hour later and arrived at The Nanaksar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple to meet the congregants. This is a traditional Punjabi-style Sikh temple which opened in 1990 in Richmond. We gathered to hear their spiritual leaders speak and to listen to holy hymns and reflected on the blessings of the day. Connie Waterman's words rang so true right in that moment: "Each one of us has the ability, individually and collectively, to be compassionate, selfless and loving. These attributes are strengthened by religious values taught by all the world's great religions. Together we can create a better world by concentrating all the thoughts of our heart on love and unity, then aligning our actions to reflect that thought."
They received us graciously in the community kitchen and provided a free vegetarian meal to both congregation members and the public. We drank a warm cup of tea infused with the sweet aroma of spices, ate sweets and the social conversation blossomed over families, jobs, and our travels in the world. Believing in one God, Sikhs welcome people from all walks of life to attend their services. When entering the Gurdwara, heads must be covered. Scarves are provided in the front lobby and shoes need to be removed.
Heading to the Joy Christian Fellowship at Bethany United Church, Scott Reynold's contemplative words came to mind: "When we are confronted with deep loss, fear often emerges in our thoughts. Walking and sharing a meal together is a tangible, bodily demonstration of unity that reminds us to let go of fear and move forward in love." The youth organizers truly believe that the goal of the Spiritual Friendship Walk was to develop a sense of mutual trust, respect, and understanding across religious traditions, and to reduce religiously motivated violence, stereotyping, bigotry, or hatred. Uniting people across faith and ideological lines creates an environment of interfaith harmony.
The Bethany United Church has been serving the local community since 1917 and is inclusive and caring to all in their church family. We all rejoiced in the resurrection of Christ, and how He gives His victory to all who believe in his power to save. Beginning with a call to worship and an opening prayer, we sang songs, learned the catechism, read the New and Old Testament Reading, made an offering, listened to the benediction and announcements. Pastor Fletcher received us with enthusiasm and our day culminated with the warm reception given to us by the Joy Christian Fellowship at the Bethany United Church on Easter Sunday evening.
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Music by Jahzzar