Restoring harmony through arts, culture and community by placing a positive value on what makes each of us unique and celebrating our commonalities is the mandate behind the Tsawwassen Harmony Initiative Society (THIS).
Local residents Warren Dean Flandez and Geeta Schallig started the society a few months ago bringing on fellow residents NaRai Dawn Sherritt and Michael Soltis shortly thereafter.
“We are still building the team, with a few others joining our board, but essentially, we are four parents (NaRai is a parent to be in a few weeks) who wanted to work towards a better community for our children,” said Flandez. “That is our driving force. Obviously, the talk right now is around anti-racism, but THIS is about inclusiveness for everyone in our community, whatever that may be. And as we all evolve, different topics will be covered and addressed with THIS initiatives as well.”
‘THIS’ is an initiative driven collective that creates platforms focused on community restoration at a humanitarian level. With a common goal of bringing people together through arts and culture, the team at THIS is dedicated to providing meaningful experiences that encourage community engagement and immersive learning opportunities through social campaigns and community.
“Our mandate is to restore harmony through arts, culture and community by placing a positive value on what makes each of us unique and I think that is really important, but also by celebrating our commonalities,” Flandez added. “Our commonalities is that we are human – we all have families, we all have loved ones in the community. Regardless of who we are and where we are we all have a voice. It is our duty to speak and be the voice of the voiceless. I don’t view myself as an activist per say. I’m active, but not reactive. There should be ways to bring our community together in harmony, so what better way to learn about other cultures is to be immersed in culture.”
Due to COVID-19, a cultural festival is on hold for now, but they hope to schedule it for next summer.
“The idea of a festival is something that I have been toying around for a number of years,” said Flandez. “Music, food, arts, dance, fashion. It really is a community festival and it’s not about being culturally diverse it’s just about being diverse in general. We want to ensure that everyone in the community is welcome.”
In the meantime, THIS is working on a decal that can be displayed in businesses throughout the community that shows that it is a safe and inclusive space.
“We are not reinventing the wheel with this sticker campaign, but there needs to be a way for people who are newcomers or people who feel marginalized that they are welcome in certain areas,” he said. “Something as simple as this can go a long way. I’m a business owner in Tsawwassen and I’ve spoken too many who say that they feel more welcome in chain stores than in some of our smaller stores, so that really surprised me that people in South Delta are experiencing this.”
THIS is also planning a community forum in the coming weeks.
“We are still working on what this will look like as COVID-19 does not allow a large gathering, so it might be remote in some way or virtual,” he said. “We want to facilitate a round-table discussion where people can funnel their questions and receive honest answers on a level playing field.”
More details on the forum will be released soon.