Mission's Kusum Soni was honoured with a community service award June 13 from UFV.

Mission's Kusum Soni was honoured with a community service award June 13 from UFV.

Soni given UFV’s community service award

Betty Urquhart award bestowed to Mission Community Services's Kusum Soni

It’s Kusum Soni’s inclusive embrace that earned her this year’s Betty Urquhart community service award from the University of the Fraser Valley.

A guiding light in a foreign land, Soni ties together vulnerable communities with compassion. She instils confidence through programming for seniors at Mission Community Services, educating immigrants and other vulnerable elders on building positive attitudes by making action plans for food and exercise, and organizing field trips via the West Coast Express to show the benefits of public transportation.

Her vision has widened the scope and range of Mission’s Diwali celebrations over the last five years, helping the event to grow from 30 participants to 800 community members and 16 partners, including the UFV Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies.

Though funding is available for catering, Soni’s philosophy of inclusion stretched to bring Rotarians into the Sikh temple to help cook meals.

“We could have easily bought food, but bringing two cultures together creates harmony and understanding,” she said.

“Socializing with each other tears down walls.”

That connection between food and community is carried on by Soni’s own hands when she creates traditional Indian dishes for two dozen women at Abbotsford’s Warm Zone, a Home, Healing and Space program and a day shelter for women who are living and working on the streets.

What began as a monthly venture quickly evolved into a weekly institution.

“The meal was just a medium to talk to the women, but it took almost a year to earn their confidence. I wanted to know what happened in their life, and eventually they became a part of mine.”

Soni’s nomination for this year’s Betty Urquhart community service award included glowing support from volunteers at Mission Community Services Society, where she works in addition to volunteering at Mission’s Cultural Resource Commission. She also volunteers on the board of directors for the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, and Mission’s Literacy in Motion. She recently joined another volunteer role as member of the Regional Ethno-cultural Advisory Committee of Corrections Services Canada.

She received her award June 13, during UFV’s morning convocation ceremony.